Thick protective sleeves may be needed to harvest this crop but Wamuran finger lime grower Bob Schultz says the thorns are the only battle he's fighting.
“We have to wear arm protection, a light, virtually impenetrable sleeve. It’s a bit like armour, like kevlar only thinner, and it’s very effective in that nothing goes through it,” Bob says. The arm’s aren’t the only thing needing to be protected the pickers also wear gloves so assist with gently removing the fruit from the bush.
“Because the bushes are so prickly, if you don’t put the fruit in your hand and pull it out, it gets scratched and pricked by the thorns.”
For the past five or so years, Bob has been growing finger limes on his family farm in addition to some herbs and their main crop, Strawberries.
“Strawberries involve a lot of work each year putting all that material down on the ground and then all the picking, all the packing, all the transport … whereas these finger limes will probably be picked six times a season at picking height, no bending, no trolleys. Most of them have one big flush usually somewhere between January and June. But then things are not so hectic with the strawberries, so it fits really well.”
So far, he has planted around 1500 trees with the plans to add a further 2500 to the orchard and with hopes for each tree to last around 15 years.
In contrast to strawberries, at the end of the season, he will not have to worry about a glut of fruit because finger limes freeze well and thaw almost instantly. Bob bought a 20 cubic metre freezer, with ready-made grant from the Queensland Rural Industry and Development Authority (QRIDA).
“It will be full of finger limes once the price drops below the mark when I say ‘no I’m not taking any less than that’,” Bob says.
Chefs are screaming for more of the fruit, also described as citrus caviar and served with seafood, used in dressings, jams and sauces, beverages and even baking.
The pulp colour ranges from light green, dark green and pink to dark red, champagne and purple.
“It is an Australian native fruit and I think people should get more interested in them,” Bob says. “They don’t grow like this in the bush. They are more spindly in the wild, with only two or three fruit on them. People have bred them up to be more productive.”
So does Bob do you eat them? “I don’t. Funnily enough I don’t eat strawberries either,” he laughs.
Are you screaming out for the fruit? It is available to buy it from the Crystal Pearl Finger Limes website.
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