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Plant identification guides:
Bush tucker food forest

Information about medicinal qualities of plants, or about their use as medicines, is for interest only, and is not intended to be used as a guide for the treatment of medical conditions.

 

As with all medicinal applications of Australian bush foods, please do your due diligence and consult with First Nations or other Australian herbal specialists before utilising as a remedy for any condition.

 

Some parts of the plant may not be edible or some may need preparation before they are safe to eat or use in any way. We do our best to describe their traditional & modern uses. It is the reader’s responsibility to ensure they are fit for their intended use.

 

We can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Finger lime

Scientific name:

Other Names:

Citrus australasica (previously, microcitrus australasica)

Australian finger lime, Caviar lime, “Gulalamgay” (Bundjalung language – the fruit is called “Gulalung”)

Family:

Rutaceae (citrus family, same as mandarins, oranges, lemons, limes etc)

Finger lime

Basic info:

Named after its shape, finger lime is one of several citrus species native to Australia. Wild finger limes are genetically very diverse, with trees and fruit varying in size, shape and seediness, with the largest palette of colours of any fruit.


Finger lime is native to the sub-tropical rainforests of South-East Queensland from Mount Tambourine to the Richmond River in North-East New South Wales. It is an understory shrub, meaning it grows under the shade of the forest canopy and can grow up to 6 metres in height on a range of soil types.


Although a rainforest species, they will grow well in open sunlight and are known to grow commercially on the Eastern Seaboard and in West Australia. They will grow anywhere that traditional citrus will grow.


The small leaves are oval shaped and up to 40 mm long on thorny stems. White (or sometimes pale pink) Autumn flowers are followed in Winter and Spring by slow-growing finger-shaped fruit. The fruit can be from 5cm to 12cm long and roughly the size of an average person’s index finger, but fruit from juvenile trees can be less than 2.5cm long.


They come in range of colours from yellow through various shades of green to deep purple, black, red and a spectacular bright pink. The skin does not always reflect the colour of the flesh (the pulp is green, yellow or pink) and the colour often becomes more intense with ripening.


The flesh of Finger limes is made up of small, bead-like balls of juice (with a caviar-like appearance) that burst in the mouth with a delicious fragrant lime flavour. The vesicles are sometimes referred to as “crystals” or “pearls”.


Finger Lime fruit doesn’t ripen well off the tree, so pick only fully ripe fruit – these will feel full and detach easily. When opening the fruit, avoid getting oil from the rind onto the pearls, as this can affect the flavour.


Plants that are grown from seed take up to 8-9 years before bearing fruit whereas grafted trees produce within 2-3 years.


When European settlers cleared the bush for farming, many of the finger lime trees were destroyed, however isolated pockets of sub-tropical rainforest on private land and National Parks still remain with some wild Finger lime trees surviving. All finger lime traded in Australia is cultivated rather than wild harvest, with commercial plantings mainly within its natural reach.


Today, finger lime is receiving considerable attention as a commercial food plant and research is being carried out to develop selected, superior forms of the species and also to develop hybrids with exotic Citrus species. A recently developed cultivar of C.australasica known as “Rainforest Pearl” is becoming available through specialist nurseries and is claimed to be a vigorous grower bearing pink/green fruit with a pink pulp. Another recent cultivar is the “Blood Lime”, a cross between a mandarin and a finger lime and characterised by its blood red rind, flesh and juice.

The bushy thorny foliage is a perfect protective habitat for small birds to nest.

Uses and Interesting Information:

Finger limes have been used by Indigenous communities on Australia’s east coast (living on Barunggam, Wakka Wakka, Bundjalung and Gumbainggir lands) for food and medicinal purposes for centuries.


Indigenous wisdom knew that native finger limes were an excellent water source that could help conquer or prevent dehydration under the harsh Australian sun. So, finger limes were often consumed for hydration purposes, especially if someone had to go on a journey and walk long distances.


They were also used for skin purposes to heal cuts and wounds. It was known that the citric acid content in finger limes would be good for treating skin infections. Either the skin of the finger lime or the pearls inside were rubbed into the part of the skin that had a cut or infection to help the person to heal.[1]


The fruits are relatively new to western cuisine, having only been first mentioned in published literature in 1989, and have only been planted in commercial quantities since 1997.


With its refreshing citrus flavour, fresh finger lime fruit is ideal for use in dressings, aioli, savoury and sweet sauces, chutneys, marmalades and jams.


Finger Limes are best enjoyed by gently squeezing the fruit, releasing the flavourful pearls onto your dish. Their vibrant colours and unique texture add a touch of elegance and excitement to any culinary creation.


When choosing Finger Limes, look for fruits with firm skin and vibrant colours. They should feel slightly heavy for their size, indicating well-filled vesicles.


The lime complements seafood dishes and as a substitute for lemongrass in many Asian dishes. Both juice and pulp go well with fresh oysters, fish and calamari. 


It pairs well with watermelon, honeydew and rockmelon, mango, persimmon, avocado, leafy greens, chilli, ginger, rice and poultry, and complements most mild cheeses.


This fruit is great in summer drinks and desserts. It adds a refreshing, aromatic twist to cocktails and spirits such as mojitos, margaritas, martinis – – almost anything using gin or vodka. The lime also adds a refreshing twist to soda, tonic and mineral waters, cordials and lemonade.


Dried finger lime powder is an ideal ingredient for use in cheesecakes, ice cream, sorbet, biscuits, sponge cake, muffins, sweet flavoured breads, and to add a refreshing taste to dukkah.


Finger limes contain three times the amount of Vitamin C that is found in a mandarin and also high in Vitamin E - two vitamins that promote cell protection and aid the immune system in the prevention of many diseases and illnesses. 


The ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) scale is used to measure antioxidant activity. Green finger limes have an ORAC of 4,590 and pink finger limes have an ORAC of 6,510. Regular limes only have a score of 82. By eating the lime it can help maintain a healthy immune system and improve your overall health.


Also known to be a rich source of folate and potassium. They are also high in dietary fibre and a good source of protein.


The nutritional profile of finger limes is sufficient to class the fruit as a “superfood”.


The popularity of this plant has grown rapidly over the past few years and the health benefits have not all been discovered yet. While being researched in Switzerland, 6 distinct essential oil molecules were found in the peel that had not been seen in other plants before.


The combination of nutrients contained within finger limes helps with the following:

  • Increased Immunity to Infections

  • Delayed Aging of the Skin

  • Healthy Teeth and Gums

  • Boosted Eye Health and Vision

  • Defense against Age-Related Diseases

  • Lowered Blood Pressure

  • Reduced Risk of Iron-Deficiency Anemia


The chemical composition of finger lime also makes it a good choice for skin-care.

The flesh of finger limes consist of citric acid, malic acid, lactic acid and glycolic acid, all of which are ingredients used in anti-aging products. By consuming the seeds or applying topically they are believed to aid in ridding signs of aging and help keep your skin hydrated.


Studies show that citric acid can act as an antibacterial agent. When applied topically to the skin,  citric acid may accelerate acute and chronic wound healing, and help to treat ulcers.


Further skin care uses are: it fights oil build-up and wrinkles while improving the skin's hydration. It also inhibits keratinization (the glue that molds dead keratinocyte cells together, leading to build-up that can cause acne), but supports good collagen production.


Finger Lime Caviar Skin Benefits:

  • The organic acid in the lime caviar is an exfoliating property and helps remove dead skin cells.

  • Amino acids act as powerful antioxidants and boost collagen.

  • Anti-inflammatory properties to help with uneven skin tone and pigmentation, reduce fine lines, and sun damage spots, and promote radiant skin.

  • Finger lime extract will help skin hydration and support collagen production, leading to bright, glowing skin. Finger lime fruit can also help prevent and fight acne, rosacea, psoriasis, inflammation, hyperpigmentation, and wrinkles, and can help even out skin tone.

  • Finger lime extract is suitable for all skin types. It is especially suited for dry skin because of its ability to increase hydration.


NOTES:

[1] https://www.sbs.com.au/food/article/finger-limes-taste-sensational-but-what-makes-them-good-for-you/sa864sy5l

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