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AU: Finger limes set to boom

Australian finger lime growers are seeing a rise in demand as more people become aware of this native rainforest fruit.

Queensland grower Ian Douglas of The Lime Caviar Company says both the domestic and international markets are strong, with top chefs and boutique alcohol companies among the biggest clients for growers.

“When we started about eight years ago, really finger limes were confined to being a bush tucker kind of thing,” Mr Douglas says. “But the knowledge of them is becoming widespread and now they’re popular with a lot of top chefs.”

The Lime Caviar Company supplies finger limes to five star restaurants all around Australia, and also exports to Europe and other parts of the Oceanic region.

“We export a lot to Holland, and this year we’re also sending some to the UK and Italy,” Mr Douglas says. “We also sell frozen finger limes to New Zealand, Japan and the US.”

The Lime Caviar Company expects to harvest 10 tonnes this season, with Mr Douglas estimating Australian growers to yield a total of 30-40 tonnes in 2015.

Finger limes are native to a small part of the northern New South Wales and southern Queensland rainforest region, and it’s estimated there are over 80 varieties in the wild. Mr Douglas says Australian growers focus on about 25 varieties for commercial harvest, with each grower naming the varieties as they find them.

“The industry is still experimenting because there are so many different types of finger limes, and you could grow one for a few years, then find it’s not as good as another,” he says.

“We concentrate on two varieties: the Emerald, which has dark green skin and lime green pearls; and Byron Sunrise, which has reddish orange pearls. Chefs like the contrasting colours and both varieties have a terrific taste.”

Mr Douglas says top restaurants will feature finger limes in seafood dishes, on salads and in carpaccio, as well as a growing number of adventurous desserts.

“I love them mixed into ice cream, and mixed in yoghurt, they’re fantastic,” he says. “The latest thing they’re being used for is to make vodka and gin. There’s companies in the US and New Zealand doing that now, and in Australia there’s now finger lime beer and a company in Bathurst (NSW) making finger lime vodka.”

The finger lime season typically lasts three months, from March to May, but it can vary based on altitude and climate.

“Our season is probably longer than most because we’re at an altitude of about 2000ft above sea level,” Mr Douglas says. “It’s from Christmas to June, but most other’s it’s about three months near the start of the year.”

The majority of finger lime growers are currently based in Australia and ship worldwide, freezing the fruit for countries that have strict quarantine against the Australian fruit fly, such as the US. Mr Douglas says more trees are being grown around Australia, and expects the industry to increase significantly over the next 5-10 years, for both domestic and international markets.

For more information:
Ian Douglas
The Lime Caviar Company
Tel: +61 7 5544 1232 or +61 417373073

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