How To Use Exotic Finger Limes

Growing molecular gastronomy

Things evolve strangely on islands. Small animals become large. Large animals become small. And in Australia, limes turn into finger-shaped fruits full of caviar.

No, not the caviar of the Volga River–more the stuff of chef Ferran Adrià and his disciples, liquids turned into suspended drops via a bath of sodium alginate.

Except this stuff grows on trees.

Once a fruit only accessible stateside to botanists like David Karp, finger limes are in the midst of their first season of commercial production in California. The fruit will be available through January from Shanley Farms at the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers' Market (2 for $1, or $10 for a half-pint).

Unlike the citrus wedges found next to your taco or Thai takeout, the juice vesicles in finger limes have a thicker exterior and are only loosely connected, allowing them to be squeezed out of their rind intact. In your mouth, the tart juice–not mouth-puckering, but far from sweet–explodes from the vesicles with a satisfying pop.

You can try the fruit just steps away from the Shanley stand as an oyster garnish at Carlsbad Aquafarm, or squeeze the cachaça- and agave-soaked pulp out of a halved lime at the Library Bar for an instant caipirinha–a preparation that's easy to recreate at home (download the recipe here).