Finger limes, or caviar limes, as they are often called, have appeared on the menus of innovative chefs and mixologists slowly but surely over the past few years. The finger lime plant, native to Australia and only recently commercially available in the U.S., produces small oval fruits about the size of a finger.
Inside the small dark green pods are dainty juice vesicles in perfect spheres that resemble caviar. Unlike the pulp of an average lime, the juice vesicles of a finger lime maintain their shape until the last moment when they pop in your mouth, releasing their sweet juice. It’s an odd but delightful sensation not unlike drinking freshly popped and very cold champagne or eating Pop Rocks (remember Pop Rocks?). The flavor is similar to your everyday lime but somehow feels more wild and herbaceous, as if you were to distil and concentrate the zest of a regular lime. The fragrant pulp is delightful on oysters, mixed with noodles and in cocktails.
The small pearls of juice feel so delicate but are in fact quite sturdy. To extract the pulp, simply slice your lime in half across the middle and press out the beads of juice from each end, like you would a tube of toothpaste. If your finger lime is ripe and fresh, the pearls will slide out easily and remain perfectly intact.
This “citrus caviar” is heavenly on fresh oysters served on the half shell. The botanical flavor is also an exquisite pairing for raw fish. Many creative sushi chefs have used the juice and zest of a Japanese citrus fruit called Yuzu as a topping for delicate cuts of sashimi like yellowtail and tuna belly. Serve finger lime pulp atop thinly shaved yellowtail with a splash of soy sauce for an elegant and simple take on ceviche.
Finger limes elevate any food or beverage, just as the way a squeeze of lime elevates a fish taco or an ice-cold Corona beer. To take the classic champagne cocktail up a notch, add a few pearls of lime caviar to each glass and a thin slice on the rim.
Champagne Cocktail with Finger Lime
1 sugar cube
4 dashes orange bitters
1 finger lime
6 oz. champagne
Place the sugar cube in a champagne flute and add 4 dashes of orange bitters and slowly pour in 6 ounces of champagne. Slice the finger lime in half and then slice a thin round with a small incision to add to the rim of the glass as decoration. Squeeze out the pulp from one half of the lime and add to the glass.
Where to Get Finger Limes
Until recently, finger limes could only be found in Australia. But now several farm in California are selling the crop commercially.
Shanley Farms in Morro Bay, California ships small packages of finger limes to anywhere in the US. A small clamshell of 15-20 limes costs $15 plus $6 shipping.
Goodland Organics in Goleta, California ships a ½ pound back of finger limes anywhere in the US for $25 plus shipping.
If you have the space and live in the right climate, why not try and grow your own finger limes. Four Winds Farms has one-year-old trees for sale. (link:
Ally-Jane Grossan is an editor and food writer in Brooklyn, NY. Her recipes and food adventures can be found at Ally-Jane.com .