Ever picked up a product in a shop and known it was a winner? Last year I grabbed a bag of fingerlimes that were being grown sustainably by a local farmer and I knew instantly they’d be a hit.
Coonowrin Fingerlimes are now in their second year of production and Tracy Mackle graciously agreed to be the first farmer off the rank for my series of interviews with local farmers called dishing the dirt.
Fingerlimes, Citrus australasica, are an Australian native fruit, growing naturally in rainforest areas of Queensland and New South Wales. Now popular bush tucker, their citrus flavour, beautiful colour and caviar-like appearance have made fingerlimes a darling of chefs and cocktail artisans alike. Tracy and her husband Gerard grow three varieties of fingerlime: red champagne, pink ice and chartreuse.
In January, my readers helped me put together a list of what questions they'd like me to ask the farmers that I interview. Thank you to those of you who contributed your ideas. Tracy and I sat down with a piece of cheesecake and she answered your questions. While we were chatting one of her boys emerged dressed in a mechanic costume and the other smeared play dough on the floor. It was the kind of stop start conversation that only mothers seem to have, but Tracy answered your questions and we got the job done!
quick and dirty: questions from readers
have you always been a farmer?
I was raised on my parent’s hobby farm. We planted the fingerlimes four years ago.
My husband, Gerard, and I have always had an interest in bush tucker, so four years ago when we were deciding on a crop to plant, fingerlimes were a natural choice.
what’s the best way to store your product?
They last 3-4 weeks in the fridge. If you notice the outside skin starting to discolour, throw them in the freezer. Fingerlimes defrost well and frozen fruit can be used in curries, drinks, marmalades and butters.
how can consumers help primary producers?
In our case, all our produce is sold through local fruit and vegetable shops and occasionally at markets. Shop at local independent stores - they’re the people visiting the markets and choosing the best produce.
what's your favourite way to cook with finger limes?
My favourite way to use fingerlimes is in salads. They're a great way of adding flavour to a salad; using fingerlimes has the added benefit that salads dressed with fingerlimes don’t become wet with juice. While we were talking Tracy showed me a few other ways I hadn't thought to use them:
Split a whole fingerlime lengthways and put the whole fruit into a curry to impart a citrus taste while cooking. Before serving, scoop the centre of the fingerlime into the curry and discard the skin.
Homemade Ice Blocks
Add fingerlimes to the bottom of ice block moulds, then blend mango and pineapple together and pour on top. Healthy jelly tips!
This lemon myrtle and fingerlime cheesecake is the tastiest thing I put in my mouth last week! Tracey recommends including macadamias in the biscuit crumb for a Queensland bush tucker trifecta! You need this recipe!
Oysters with Fingerlime dressing
I've been experimenting with fingerlimes in my own kitchen, and my favourite way to use them is a quick and tasty topping for oysters. The little pink juice vesicles add great colour and a citrus pop when they burst in your mouth.
2 spring onions, white portion only finely sliced
½ tsp fish sauce
½ tsp sesame oil
a dozen oysters
Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl. Stir and allow to sit for five minutes. Arrange the oysters on a bed of ice, top each oyster with the dressing. Serve and enjoy.
Unfortunately you won't be seeing Coonoowrin Fingerlimes outside the Sunshine Coast hinterland anytime soon. Fingerlimes are proving such a hit, that local fruit shops are taking as much fruit as Tracey can produce at this stage. Such a unique product was always going to be a winner.