Finger lime: The caviar of citrus fruits

Finger limes are slowly being introduced to the culinary world, but are quickly becoming chefs favorites. Finger limes are known as citrus caviar because the texture of the pulp is similar to caviar. The pulp contains small, round bubbles that are filled with juice and provide a refreshing surge of acidity and taste with every bite. Growing a finger linden is incredibly easy, and the fruit can be stored in the freezer to enjoy any time of the year.

The juicy pearls of the finger lime fruit can be used as a garnish on countless dishes and desserts. They go particularly well with seafood, but can also be added to cocktails and desserts. It's an excellent substitute for lime juice and, in some cases, a better option. Using finger limes in tacos and fruit salad adds the delicious lime flavor without making your tortilla mushy or the fruit salad watery. If you're a fan of spicy tastes, you can even eat them individually.

Finger linden can be integrated into almost any room. They're low-maintenance and thrive in the heat, but they need frost protection. Fortunately, they grow well in containers, so bringing them indoors in winter when it's cooler is a great option. Finding a finger linden can be your biggest challenge. They're rarely found in stores, but there are a handful of online retailers who can deliver straight to your home.

Good products on Amazon for growing finger limes:

Brief instructions for care

The finger linden produces small fruits that are filled with sap-filled bubbles. Source: mmmavocado

Common name (s) Australian finger lime, finger lime, caviar lime
Scientific name Microcitrus australasica or Citrus australasica
Days to harvest Harvest annually March-May
light Partly to full sun
water Moderate
ground Well draining
fertilizer Every 6 weeks from spring-summer
Pests Mites, scales, butterflies, aphids, ACP
Diseases Phytophthora, branch dieback, HLB

Everything about the finger linden

Finger limeMost finger limes are not very big, but they are full of flavor. Source: RBerteig

Microcitrus australasica is commonly referred to as finger lime, Australian finger lime and caviar lime. Although they look completely different, Australian finger limes are related to common citrus varieties like lemons, navel oranges, and mandarins. Microcitrus australasica is one of six native citrus species in Australia, where it grows as an undergrowth or small tree in the rainforest. The shrub and tree sizes vary between 6-25 feet. The Australian finger linden has small, opposing, evergreen leaves with a thorn on each axilla. The flowers are light pink, fading to pale pink or white. The fruit is long, cylindrical, and often curved; some say they resemble fingers. Fruits are usually seedless or contain very few small seeds.

Depending on the variety, the fruit size ranges from 1.5 to 5.5 inches and the colors include red, yellow, green, purple, and brown. Several established varieties are available in Australia, but fewer options may be available in other countries. Some examples of popular varieties are "Red Champagne", "Chartreuse", "Crystal" and "Pink Ice". Each variety has a different sugar-acid ratio, which gives them a unique taste. They also have different colored pearls or bubbles.

Australian finger linden trees are usually planted as grafted trees and begin to produce 1-2 years after planting. It takes 4-5 years for the tree to produce an abundance of fruits. Trees bloom in autumn and are ready to harvest between March and May. Some varieties can produce a month earlier or later. Finger linden trees are self-fertile but produce a heavier harvest when pollinated.

Microcitrus australasica is not only characterized by its unique fruit. It can be key to finding a cure or solution for huanglongbing (HLB) or citrus greens. HLB is a disease that causes small and deformed fruits and eventually citrus tree death. It was devastating to citrus producers around the world, particularly in the United States, China, and Brazil. Australian finger limes have shown both tolerance and resistance to HLB. Tolerance means the trees will become infected, but the symptoms are mild and the tree can grow and continue to produce marketable fruit. Resistance is when the tree is not susceptible to HLB and does not become infected after exposure. Understanding and using these properties is critical to protecting citrus production around the world.


The best time to plant a young tree is in the spring after the last frost. It can be planted in summer too, but avoid temperatures above 90 ° F for a couple of weeks while the tree acclimates. Choose a sunny, warm location with good soil drainage. Keep in mind that this tree has a lot of thorns, so avoid planting in high-traffic areas where people or pets could accidentally come into contact. Wind protection is also important. Excessive wind can cause the thorns to damage or pierce the fruit.

This tree can be planted in a large container or in the ground. If you're planting in a pot, use at least a 10 gallon pot and potting soil specially formulated for citrus fruits. Water the newly planted tree until the entire pot is saturated. When planting, dig a hole in the ground that is twice as wide and as deep as the root ball. Fill the hole, cover it with mulch and pour it in. Whether you are planting in a container or in the ground, don't bury the graft joint. The rhizome should be at least a few inches above the ground.


Finger lime flowerCitrus australasia flowers are small but pretty. Source: Rod Waddington

Caviar limes require very little effort to grow. The best care for your tree will keep it looking beautiful and productive.

Sun and temperature

Australian finger limes require partial to full sun, which means at least 6 hours of direct light per day. They are hardy in zones 8-11 but can be grown in colder regions if brought inside during frost.

Finger limes thrive in temperatures above 90 ° F in summer and above 40 ° F in mild winters. Trees need shelter in winter when temperatures drop below freezing.

Water and moisture

Water in the morning once or twice a week. The soil should be kept moist, but not soaked or saturated. Watering hoses or drip irrigation should be used for irrigation in order to prevent water from running off.

Finger limes planted in pots may need more watering. They should be completely saturated and slightly damp before the next watering. Potted trees can be watered with drip irrigation or manually with a hose.

Don't let the soil dry out and keep plants well watered during flowering and fruit development. Underwatering in the warmer months can lead to leaf fall. Trees do not need additional water during the rainy season.


Australian finger lime can grow in a variety of soil types, as long as it is well-drained. They prefer loamy soils with high organic matter. For optimal growth, the soil pH should be slightly acidic to neutral.


There are many different fertilizers made specifically for citrus fruits. The rates and frequency of use will depend on the fertilizer mix and whether or not it is a slow release mix. Slow-release mixtures usually need to be applied once or twice a year.

Fertilize finger limes in spring and summer. Remember that Australian finger limes don't need as much fertilizer as other citrus varieties like lemon or tangerine trees. Do not over-fertilize during flowering and fruit development, as this can cause flowers and fruits to fall off. If a citrus fertilizer mix is ​​not available, 12-6-6 can be used. Look for fertilizer mixes that also contain micronutrients like magnesium, zinc, iron, and copper.


Finger linden thornsBe careful and use protective equipment, as finger linden trees have very sharp thorns. Source: Rigid

Pruning can be done at any time of the year, but best after harvest to avoid removing flowers and fruits. Typically, the fruits are ready to harvest from March to May and flowering begins in autumn. Australian finger limes are difficult to prune because they are full of thorns. Use hand and eye protection when pruning. Heavy, puncture-resistant work gloves are strongly recommended.

Pruning should be done to maintain the size, remove disruptive branches and remove dead shoots. Finger limes do not require ancient growth to produce fruit. Most fruits naturally fall from the tree. Manually remove any old fruit that will not naturally fall off. Australian finger trees are not deciduous, so the leaves stay on the tree all year round.


Grafting and rooting cuttings are the best methods of propagating Australian finger lime. Seeds can be difficult to find and successful germination is rare.

Chip budding is the most common technique for grafting Australian finger lime and is usually grafted onto a rootstock seedling. When planting in the ground, grafted trees are the best option. Seedlings typically have better root structure than rooted cuttings, which makes the tree more stable. Depending on the type of rhizome, they can offer disease resistance, greater cold tolerance, and height control.

Rooted cuttings are a very easy way to propagate Australian finger limes. Cuttings should be between 2-4 inches in size and a rooting hormone should be used to speed up rooting. Keep the cuttings in a moist environment out of direct light until roots are formed. Cuttings take about two weeks to develop roots. Acclimate slowly over 1-2 weeks before exposing it to direct sunlight. Trees propagated by cuttings are best for pots and should not be planted in the ground.

Harvest and storage

Caviar limesThe "caviar lime" can grow in shades of red, brown, pink, green or purple. Source: Tatters

Harvesting finger lime fruits is not a fun task without proper protection. These thorny plants can turn harvesting into a nightmare if you're not careful. Once the fruits are picked, there are a few storage options to make sure your hard work isn't in vain!


The color is the first indicator of whether finger limes are ready to be harvested. Depending on the variety, finger lime fruits can be red, yellow, green, purple or brown. Once they show full color, gently pull the fruit. Ripe fruits can be easily detached from the tree. When the fruits have to be pressed, they are not yet fully ripe and ready for harvest. When harvesting fruit, it is advisable to wear thick, impenetrable gloves to avoid getting stung by thorns.


Fruits can be kept for around a week at room temperature and around 3 weeks in the refrigerator. Store chilled fruit in a breathable bag or container.

Surprisingly, caviar limes can be stored well in the freezer. Place whole fruit in a sealed, freezer-safe container to freeze. The pulp retains its "caviar" texture and can be stored for 6 months.


Australian finger lime leafFinger lime leaves are pretty and have a rounded to slightly pointed shape. Source: Rigid

Australian finger limes occasionally have minor growth problems. Most problems can be prevented or easily resolved. Below are some tips for a hassle-free growing experience.

Growing problems

Although they are shade tolerant, finger linden trees may produce little or no fruit if given too much shade. The plant will continue to survive and grow, but fruit production will be affected.

Blossom breakdown and premature fruit fall are often caused by extreme weather and overfertilization during flowering or at the beginning of fruit development. Do not fertilize during flowering or in the first stages of fruit development to avoid unwanted fruit loss. Some flower and fruit drops are normal and to be expected.

Damaged fruit is a common problem, especially in windy areas. The thorns cause open wounds in the fruit, which lead to mold and rotten fruit. Avoid planting in windy areas or provide a wind barrier when the fruit is developing.


There are several types of Mites which are problematic for caviar limes. Mites are extremely small arachnids that are difficult to see with the naked eye. They cause pitting damage to the leaves and heavy infestation leads to leaf fall. Usually, the damage is noticed before the pest. All adult mites are small, eight-legged, and tend to stay in groups on the underside of the leaves. Some mites produce tissue, while others do not. The colors range from creamy yellow to dark red. Mites tend to attack weak or stressed trees. Maintaining a healthy tree is the main defense against mites as they tend to have a good balance between pest mites and predatory insects to keep populations under control. When the mite population gets out of hand, horticultural oils and insecticidal soaps can be used to control heavy infestations.

Soft and armored scales found on the twigs and branches of trees. There are several types of scales in a variety of colors ranging from yellow to brown to black. Damage doesn't come straight from the scales. Dandruff produces excessive honeydew, which leads to sooty mold. Soot mold covers the leaves, which inhibits photosynthesis and leads to leaf drop. Dandruff is usually controlled by natural enemies and parasites. When treatment is required, oil sprays are effective.

Aphids are a small, soft-bodied insect that feeds on the sap of delicate plant tissue. They come in a variety of colors like yellow, orange, green, and black. Much like scale insects, they produce honeydew, which can lead to other problems like soot mold. Aphids are usually controlled by natural predators; However, populations can still be out of whack and harmful. Aphids can be controlled by manually removing heavily infested leaves and spraying them with water. Horticultural oils and insecticidal soaps are also effective in controlling aphids.

Lepidopteran pests include several types of Moth larvae which damage the leaves. There are some types of leaf rollers that damage the tender new growth. Citrus leaf miner is also a lepidopteran pest that typically causes mining damage to the underside of the leaves. Mining damage looks like tunnels under a flat layer of leaves. Damage caused by Lepidoptera pests is mostly cosmetic, but can inhibit the growth of young trees. Larvae can be removed manually from young trees. Treatment should not be required on mature trees. If citrus leaf miner damage is a nuisance, pheromone traps can be placed on trees to disrupt mating.

Asian citrus leaf leaves (ACP) is a small spotted brown insect that is roughly the same size as an aphid. Nymphs are yellow to green and lie flat on leaves and twigs. These psyllids produce white, spindly excrement that makes identification easier. Psyllids inject a toxin during feeding that can cause burnback on delicate growth tips. Feeding damage is not the main problem, however. They are considered major pests because they transmit HLB. Research has shown that ACP is not nearly as attracted to Australian finger lime as other citrus varieties. However, it is important to monitor your tree and be aware of the pest to prevent HLB from spreading. Depending on the region, the presence of ACP warrants different reactions. It is best to find out about the local regulations and contact your district office if you have any questions.


Phytophthora is one of the most common root diseases in citrus fruits. It causes a general decline in trees. The leaves will look yellow or light green. In advanced stages, "gumming", or sap leakage, will occur from the trunk of the tree. Trunks can also have a water-soaked appearance. Phytophthora is prevented by using best irrigation practices and planting in well-drained soil. Some rootstocks are resistant or more tolerant to Phytophthora. It is extremely important to leave at least a couple of inches of the rhizome above the soil line. There are useful microbes and mycorrhizal products that can be used to boost plant health and immunity to diseases such as Phytophthora. However, good irrigation practices are sufficient for prevention.

Twig die-off can be caused by various fungal pathogens. Branch dieback usually occurs during the rainy season. Chemical treatment is not required. Simply cut off damaged twigs and branches to prevent the infection from spreading.

Huanglongbing (HLB) is also known as Citrus Greening Disease. Symptoms of infection include yellow-spotted leaves, sudden death in young trees, and small or deformed fruits. HLB is spread through the ACP, so controlling the insect prevents the disease. It can also be transmitted when grafting with infected plant material. There is no cure for HLB. Once a tree is infected, it must be removed. Australian finger limes have shown some tolerance to HLB, so symptoms can be mild. If you suspect your tree is infected, it is best to have it tested and if it is infected, get it removed. Removing infected trees will prevent it from spreading to other citrus trees in the area. It is important to ensure that all newly planted trees come from reliable tree nurseries that comply with state regulations. For example, citrus trees grown in California should have a CDFA label, which ensures they come from clean nursery stock.

frequently asked Questions

Q: How long does it take for finger limes to bear fruit?

A: Finger limes will bear fruit after a year. You will produce an abundant amount of fruit after 4-5 years.

Q: Can you grow finger limes in the US?

A: Absolutely! While it may be hard to find in stores, there are some online retailers who can deliver a tree straight to your home.

Q: How big do finger linden trees get?

A: Australian finger linden are 6-25 feet in size, depending on the variety and rhizome. Trees can be pruned to maintain the desired height.

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