This native fruit tree (citrus australasica) grows as a rainforest understory plant in SE Queensland and NE New South Wales. It will also grow in full sun to a height of 6-10 metres, but for practical reasons the trees are usually pruned to a height that enables easy picking of the fruit. The fruit are cylindrical in shape, like a finger (about 100 mm length and 25 mm in diameter), and are genetically very diverse. Colours of skins and flesh vary enormously from bright green to bright red, and even a purple. We call our fruit “crystal pearls” because, when cut and squeezed, the caviar-like vesicles (or pearls) shine like crystals. Then comes the fresh burst of flavour as the pearls pop in the mouth.
Fingerlimes were definitely known and used by Aboriginal people, and early settlers also recognised their food value and retained some trees when clearing the land for farming. The Bundjalung (northern NSW) name for them was dooja. Aborigines also applied the pulp to wounds as a form of antiseptic. Their health value includes antioxidant properties, and they are rich in folate, potassium and vitamins E and C.
The trees are very thorny, making picking difficult, but they also provide a haven for small birds to build their nests. They begin flowering in late winter and are harvested from December to May according to the variety.
So far, we have 1200 trees in all – 500 are at an early maturing stage, and 700 are newly planted.