Addicted to finger lime

Who said that caviar can't be vegetarian?

It has an elongated shape, dark skin and inside we can find caviar. No, we are not talking about the sturgeon, but rather the Finger Lime, a citrus fruit with an intriguing story which is shaped like, as the name might suggest, one of your fingers.

It arrived with a bang here on the old continent, the citrus australasica isa plant which is endemic to and originates from the subtropical forests of Queensland in Australia. It grows spontaneously on the continent where anything is possible. This plant’s fruit, the Finger Lime, is ancient: we find the first traces of it in 1895, the year in which the British Kew Economic Botany Collection catalogued it during a Humboldtian-style forest survey. The natives had always eaten it in large quantities, and this explains a lot, because that is always a sign of the best products from any given land.

In 1989, a horticulturist discovered the citrus australasica plant, and from that point onwards it was only a short story before it was adopted as a traditional crop: Judy Viola (the horticulturist, in fact) took a seedling and grafted it onto a bitter orange plant, which was the closest relative available. The botanical experiment was a success: 30 years later, the cultivars now number seven: seven plants in different shapes, colours and, most importantly, different flavours. Today, the Finger Lime has crossed the ocean and is grown on different continents, not just in Australia, although it is still a delicate plant which is sensitive to the climate. This means that, nowadays, it can be bought in Europe at a relatively low price, with all of its benefits.

The pulp is very colourful and its colour depends on the variety: from coral pink to lime green, to yellow, to deep magenta. Each colour has a different flavour. For a more delicate flavour, there is the pink Finger Lime with its hints of mandarin, the yellow version has a sourer freshness, the red has more intense spicy notes. It has remarkable antiseptic properties, the Finger Lime is a diuretic, is refreshing and helps digestion, it also contains vitamin B6, folic acid, potassium and very high levels of vitamin C.

Today there are many top-quality chefs who are using Finger Lime in their creations. The reason for this is no secret: it has a unique taste, smell and texture. Its acidity is not too strong and is well balanced (less than a lemon, for instance) giving way to great flavour, with hints of spice. The sensory experience is amplified thanks to the crunchy consistency of the small grains, which literally explode under your teeth, just like “real” caviar. This leads to surprising contrasts in your mouth! Not bad for a citrus fruit!

How can we go about using this strange fruit? Just cut along the length with a knife and lightly squeeze the fruit to release the caviar, which can be eaten raw, without having to do anything special. The Finger Lime turns out to be a versatile fruit in the kitchen, it is especially good with fish dishes, but it also produces surprising results when used in cakes and why not, to live a little, even in cocktails!Choose the right type of Finger Lime and you can invent the most fantastic combinations: the citrus and spicy notes will enhance your raw fish dishes. Try it with oysters, scallops, carpaccio, or fish tartare. It will add a touch of acidity to a salad and goes really well with chicory or lettuce hearts.

The Finger Lime is at its best in sweet dishes too: try it with chocolate, or as a topping on a muffin, or even as a base for jams: you will be pleasantly surprised. It is an unexpected happy marriage! The Finger Lime goes well with bubbles or in a cocktail: your champagne flute is the perfect place for a teaspoon of this vegetarian caviar. You can either use it to whet your palate between sips or as the base for a cocktail, or even by crushing it into the gin for a gin and tonic.

Vegetarians! No need to complain any more: from now on you too can have caviar.

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