What Makes Finger Limes The Caviar Of Citrus

In the culinary world, citrus fruit is an absolute powerhouse. Just a bit of freshly grated zest or a quick squeeze of juice will add a whole new world of acidity and brightness to your dish.

Citrus fruit cannot be contained to just one facet of mealtime. SFGate, citing "Beef Today!" author Jean Pare, tells us that the acid found in lemon juice can break down the tough tissue found in animal protein. You can include it in a marinade for more tender meat. Of course, citrus is also a crucial element in some of our favorite desserts. Key lime pie is a tangy treat made from a mixture of lime juice, egg yolk, and sweetened condensed milk.

Though lemons and limes are among the more standard citrus offerings, there are a number of citrus fruits you might not have heard of. One particular fruit will cost you a pretty penny, but it's beloved by chefs and consumers everywhere.

Fancy finger limes are the king of citrus

As the citrus fruit's scientific name, Citrus australasica, suggests, finger limes grow in certain tropical regions of Australia, per Martha Stewart. In the finger lime's native habitat, you need to hack through the thick foliage of the rainforest and brave a bushel of prickly thorns, but they nevertheless drew the attention of American farmers.

Though they are now available in North America, citrus limes are still only grown in a few places and have a limited season, which could play a part in their status (via Specialty Produce). Deforestation has rendered wild citrus essentially extinct. However, the caviar moniker is likely linked to the structure of the fruit itself. The tough, multicolored exterior of the fruit is jam-packed with juicy pearls of juice, which are similar in appearance to the tapioca balls found in bubble tea. Unlike the fish eggs used for caviar, though, finger limes have an aromatic citrus flavor.

However, finger limes could also be called citrus caviar because of their price tag. According to Bloomberg, having finger limes shipped to you could cost a whopping $150 a pound.

Finger limes in the culinary sphere

Celebrity chef Curtis Stone, who hails from the finger lime's native Australia, said in an interview with Bloomberg that finger limes, much like the individual beads of caviar, pop when you put them in your mouth. At Stone's Los Angeles restaurant Maude, he pairs finger lime with raw fish, and the gelatinous membrane that coats each bead of finger lime keeps the juice from accidentally seeping out and curing the fish. He also uses finger limes in his duck ravioli recipe, where they serve as an acid boost for a fatty dish.

Bloomberg also tells us about several other restaurants that use finger limes in their seafood dishes. New York City's Gem and Atomix pair the fruit with fish, and at Denver's Acorn, it serves as an oyster accouterment.

If fine dining isn't your thing, and you're looking to avoid an eye-popping grocery bill, you can grow finger limes at home. Martha Stewart explains that they're fairly low-maintenance plants, though it'll take some time before they're fruitful.