Despite their rather dull outer appearance, it’s difficult to find an ingredient that is as delightful as a finger lime. Inside the tube-shaped fruit are pearl-like citrus spherules in hues of pale green, yellow, coral, and dusky red. The citrus hails from Australia, where it’s also known as a caviar lime.
Almost everything about the fruit is compact. In 1915 scientist Walter Swingle labelled it a “micro-citrus” because of its small leaves. It grows on short, thorny trees in the rainforests along the coasts of Queensland and New South Wales.
While the finger lime has been making appearances in the US over the past several years, it’s only recently gone mainstream. And not just because it’s visually compelling. “The little bites of lime pop just like caviar, and your mind goes crazy the first time you try it,” says Australian-born star chef Curtis Stone. “From a culinary perspective, they have spread like wildfire.”
At his tasting-menu restaurant in Los Angeles, Stone uses the ingredient as a garnish for raw fish and, more unconventionally, pasta: It balances the richness of the beurre blanc that coats his duck ravioli. Stone notes that the hit of acid is delayed because the citrus is encased in a membrane; you don’t get it until you bite. The membrane also stops the juice from “curing” the fish. “Finger limes are just an ingenious way to add acid,” he says.