What Are Finger Limes And How Do You Use Them?

Most people likely use limes at least every once in a while. Whether it's to add a hit of bright citrus flavor to homemade guacamole or to make margaritas, limes are a staple for many people. While you likely know that regular limes are different from key limes, you might not be quite as familiar with another type of lime: finger limes. 

Finger limes (Citrus australasica), also known as caviar limes or citrus caviar, are a unique and flavorful fruit (via The Spruce Eats). Part of the citrus family, finger limes are primarily grown in the subtropical regions of Australia. They were once known as a "microcitrus" thanks to the delicate, small leaves their trees produce, according to Bloomberg.

This unusual type of citrus is small and oblong, about the size of a finger, hence the name. They have thin, shiny skin that ranges in color from green to yellow, and a juicy interior filled with tiny, pearl-like vesicles that burst with flavor when bitten into (via Food 52). The vesicles resemble fish eggs, which is why they are sometimes called caviar limes. But there is so much more to know and understand about finger limes — and why you should try using them for yourself. 

What are finger limes?

Finger limes are primarily grown in the subtropical regions of Australia, including the states of Queensland and New South Wales (via University of Hawai'i). They thrive in warm and humid climates, and are often grown in small-scale orchards or backyard gardens.

Finger limes are grown on trees that can reach up to 25 feet in height. The trees require well-drained soil and plenty of sunshine to grow and produce fruit. They are typically propagated from cuttings and take several years to reach maturity and produce fruit. 

The fruit is harvested from the thorny trees by hand, carefully removing each finger lime from the tree to avoid damaging the delicate skin and vesicles (via Epic Gardening). Once harvested, the finger limes are sorted and packaged for distribution.

They are usually sold fresh or frozen, and are shipped to specialty food stores and restaurants around the world. The demand for finger limes has increased in recent years, as chefs and home cooks alike have learned about their unique and flavorful taste.

How to use finger limes

When it comes to taste, finger limes are tart and tangy, with a burst of citrusy flavor that is both sweet and sour — and sometimes bitter, depending on the variety (via Twigs Cafe). They have a unique flavor profile that reflects similar flavors of other types of citrus such as lime, grapefruit, and kumquat. And it's this interesting flavor profile and the complexity finger limes can provide that makes them so wonderful in a variety of dishes.

Finger limes can be used in many different ways ranging from seafood to cocktails. The tiny vesicles make a great garnish for salads, ceviches, and sushi rolls (via The Spruce Eats). They can also be used as a topping for oysters or smoked salmon. The tart and tangy flavor of finger limes pairs well with fish and other seafood, making them a great addition to any seafood dish. They can also be used to make jams, marmalades, and syrups. 

Where to buy finger limes

For those who want to incorporate finger limes into a dish at home, you won't find finger limes at your typical go-to grocery store. But that doesn't necessarily mean that the citrus is out of reach. Finger limes can be found at specialty food stores and online retailers (via Food52). They are usually sold by the pound or in small clamshell containers. So turn to your laptop or visit an international market near you.

If you find finger limes in person, then there is one tip you should consider before choosing your citrus. When buying finger limes, look for fruit that has shiny, healthy skin (via Food52). Brown spots are okay, but if a finger lime has dry, lackluster skin, it's best to skip over it. Once you have bought finger limes, they can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.

In terms of nutrition, finger limes are a good source of vitamin C, vitamin E, and folate according to the Australian Superfood Company. They also contain antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients that can boost your immune system and promote overall health. Two ounces, or 55 grams, of finger limes contains approximately 15 calories, 6 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, and 25% of your daily recommended intake of vitamin C (via Superfoodly).

Varieties of finger limes

There are several varieties of finger limes, including crimson tide, chartreuse, pink ice, crystal, and red champagne according to Twigs Cafe. Each variety has a different flavor profile and appearance, but they are all equally delicious and versatile in the kitchen.

Crystal and chartreuse finger limes, which are among the most common, have green and light green skin, respectively. Crystal finger limes have light green juice vesicles while chartreuse vesicles are light yellow and the most bitter variety. Crimson tide, the sweetest of the varieties, and pink ice finger limes have shades of brown skin with bright pink or red vesicles. Finally, red champagne finger limes are red both inside and out and have a sweet flavor. 

So, try this unique fruit bursting with citrusy flavor. For those that are lucky enough to find finger limes, they are a great addition to any kitchen. With the tart, tangy, citrusy flavor of finger limes, you can easily add them to plenty of dishes. From cocktails to seafood, finger limes are an eye-catching garnish that will undoubtedly deliver on flavor too.