Finger limes may be small, but they’re making a big impact on menus everywhere. They’re a type of microcitrus (yes, that’s a thing) filled with perfectly round, firm “vesicles” that are a trending finish for seafood dishes, salads and cocktails. At a moment when everyone is looking for visually arresting touches to make a dish Instagram-worthy, finger limes, also known as “citrus caviar,” are filling the bill.
Eating like toothpaste—really
As a fresh new twist on traditional citrus, finger limes are not just another pretty fruit. They also pack a wallop of bursting flavor and unique texture. Many chefs extol the fun of bursting the tangy little orbs between the teeth, like the oral equivalent of popping bubble wrap. Back in the kitchen prep area, some enterprising culinarians are slicing the pinkie-shaped fruits in half and squeezing the limes from the bottom, piling beads onto their tongues like toothpaste from a tube.
“Finger limes are originally an Australian fruit, but we’ve been growing them commercially in California for five years,” says Robert Schueller, Director of Public Relations at Melissa’s Produce and “Produce Guru” for Cooking Light magazine. “Their season lasts from June through December or January.” Schueller says that mixologists were the first to grab onto the trend, but he’s now seeing them used in seafood and in Asian/fusion cuisine.
Pricey—but worth it
One note: because of their price, finger limes usually are used as a garnish, not a main ingredient. “We’re selling them at high-end retailers, and a clamshell of 8 to 12 finger limes usually sells for $5 to $6. You do get a lot of caviar in each, but it’s still considered a pricey item,” Schueller says.
Still, the novelty of their looks and taste makes them an ingredient that’s poised to appear more widely across menus at all types of operations. “You don’t taste the citrus when you put it in your mouth, but when you bite into it, you get a strong ‘citrusy’ note,” he says. “Face it, they’re really fun to eat.”