Growth Habit: The finger lime is a thorny deciduous shrub/small tree native to rainforests of south east Queensland and northern New South Wales. It grows slowly to a maximum height of around five to six metres.
Foliage/Flowers: Green oval leaves of 1-3cm long grow on spindly looking, thorny branches. Small fragrant, white flowers typical of the citrus family appear in autumn.
Fruit: The small fruits are cylindrical and finger like, growing up to 12cm long. The skin and pulp can be green, yellow, red, purple or black. What makes the finger lime distinctive is that unlike other citrus, the flesh consists of tiny, bead like crystals that look similar to caviar. This edible flesh has a tangy sour citrus flavour, similar to a Tahitian lime, or grapefruit and contains very few seeds. Cultivated trees should produce a good crop within four to five years.
Adaptation : Finger limes are hardy plants that grow naturally in heavy shade in areas of high rainfall and at the forest edges where there is more sunlight. This allows it to thrive in full sun or shade, and they can tolerate light frosts. They grow well in pots or as impenetrable hedge due to their thorny nature.
Soils : Grows best in fertile, well-composted soil. Fertilise lightly in spring with compost.
Irrigation : Fruit will be best if the shrub is given frequent irrigation when the weather is warm, and kept on the dry side when it's cold.
Pruning : Pruning is not necessary, though some of the lower branches may need to be removed to prevent fruit making contact with the ground.
Propagation : Commercial varieties are grafted to common citrus rootstock.
Pests and diseases : Suffers from similar pests and diseases to that of other citrus plants, such as the bronze orange bug.
Harvest: Fruits ripen from April to June in the Illawarra. When ripe they may change colour, and the fruits can be easily picked from the branches – they will fall onto the ground if not picked. They do not continue to ripen off the tree. Fruit can be frozen whole sealed in containers and retain their flavour and texture upon thawing.