Finger Limes, also known as citrus caviar or caviar limes are full of little balls of juice called vesicles, which look like and are referred to as crystals. The crystals are crisp and burst when crunched between your teeth and are just a delightful addition to any productive backyard.
This year I have had a great crop of finger limes. My small, spindly 1.5 meter x ½ meter tree has produced nearly 50 limes. It flowered in spring, around September, and was covered in flowers and then proceeded to set lots of fruit.
There was a little bit of fruit fall early in summer but after this the fruit just grew and ripened.
Trouble was I did not know when they were going to be ready, so I have been doing some research and experimenting.
Although here is not a lot of information around on these wonderful fruit, the NSW Department of Primary Industries has a great fact sheet and there are a number of other sites and forums where you can find out information about when they ripen. Just google ‘finger lime’ and you will get plenty of hits. You can also read some of my other posts on Finger Limes on this blog.
Finger Lime fruit do not ripen off the tree and if picked green have rather sharp, almost bitter taste which is unpleasant, so it is important to know what to look for when determining if the fruit is ripe or not.
There are differences in opinion around the time of harvest, some say autumn others winter, but the general consensus about when they are ripe is that:
• They should feel full and firm to touch.
• Come away from the tree with little or no resistance.
• When cut down the middle lengthwise, cutting the thin membrane in the middle of the fruit, the caviar like crystals should ooze out of their skin without touching it.
To test all the theories I have been doing my own observations.
I have found that the easiest way is to just touch the fruit and those that are ripe will fall off the tree easily.
I tried my first fruit in late February it was easy to pick but the balls did not ooze out of the skins and the taste was Ok but still a bit sharp. By the end of March there were a few fruit dropping off the tree and when cut the pulp was oozing out, so I knew they were ready to go.
Time got away on me and I did not get the fruit harvested in March and by the first week in April the fruit had changed colour from dark olive green to a rusty red, lots of the fruit was falling off the tree, the crystal colour has intensified and the taste was just divine.
So I am going with the First week in April as the ideal time to harvest in the Southern Highlands.
The variety I have has pink pulp so that might be why the skin has taken on a reddish shade other varieties may colour differently.
Size does not seem to indicate ripeness as the fruit vary from 4cm to 8cm long and all are between 1cm to 2cm thick. They have all changed colour.
Although the weather has been unusually warm and dry this year, which may account for the discrepancies in other accounts of ripening times, I will be certainly waiting until the end of March or early April before trying to harvest next year.
Hope this has been a help for any of you out there wondering when and how to harvest your Finger Limes.
Be sure to check out my next blog where I will be giving you some hints about how to use and preserve this wonderful culinary addition to my kitchen.
For more information on starting your productive backyard, check out the website.
If you have questions about Finger Limes citrus trees in general, you can always ask me questions via my Facebook Page, Pinterest or Instagram!