Thorny situation for fruit pickers

Australian finger lime harvest

Native finger limes are a trendy taste sensation that pop in your mouth like citrus flavoured caviar, but our eating pleasure can come at a price, and certainly with a degree of pain for unwary pickers.

Queensland grower Bob Schultz and his staff wear thick gloves on both hands and at least one long, padded sleeve which reaches almost to the armpit. "Don't pull it too close, otherwise the spines will get to you," Mr Schultz warned a group of new workers as he trained them to find the fruit within the thorny shrubs at Wamuran.


Long sharp thorns protect finger limes from predators in the wild

Mr Schultz said the greatest risk was being smacked in the face by branches after reaching in amongst the foliage. "Once you've got this gear on you are well protected," Schultz said, admitting that he had drawn blood many times on the job. "A person, my age, it doesn't take much to break my skin, but you have to learn how to handle them.”

There is one benefit for the pickers: It's not a really onerous job in the sense of bending, because they're really picking at standing height most of the time.
There are 1,200 finger limes planted on the Schultz's farm at Wamuran with plans to more than triple that number. "It's taken us about four years to get to here, and our first 500 trees are only seriously beginning to fruit now," Schultz told abc.net.au.

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