“Finger limes were first brought to our attention about 15 years ago when taking a trip to Australia,” says Robert Schueller with Melissa’s. “We tried to get them imported from Australia, but up until today imports are prohibited.” About six years ago, farmers in California started planting finger lime trees and California is the only US state that grows them on a commercial basis. In the past six years, availability has improved and they are now typically available from May until January. “However, we are working on year-round availability,” adds Schueller.
A handful of growers
With less than a dozen, the number of finger lime growers is still limited. California’s Central Valley between Visalia and Bakersfield is the main growing area for finger limes and counts about 300 trees. Some trees can also be found along the Central Coast, near Morro Bay.
Rare availability and high cost
Because of small scale production, finger limes are very difficult to find in the market place. They get distributed to large metropolitan areas and are mainly available at white table cloth restaurants and at some high-end retail stores. Mixologists use them in drinks and chefs work with finger limes as a garnish. Chefs primarily use them in seafood recipes and Asian Fusion dishes.
The finger lime is one of the most expensive fruit varieties available in the US. It is sold by the ounce and Melissa’s sells them in 3 oz. and 1 oz. containers with the smaller package running at $8. Popularity of the fruit variety is increasing, but at a very slow rate. “Lowering the cost per ounce will be the main factor in getting consumption to increase,” declared Schueller.
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