I've been enamored with finger limes ever since I had them on some fresh oysters and in some phenomenal cocktails last year. I love how the little tiny spherical bubbles feel on my tongue and when you bite into them you get this effervescent burst of lemon-lime flavor with a slight floral undertone. They're kind of like a citrus pop rock.
Now I'll admit at first glance, finger limes are a bit fugly. They look like dried out gherkins (especially the ones with brown or purple peel) or a pudgy ogre finger, but the pulp inside this microcitrus is amazing. When you cut into the finger lime (which by the way isn't even a lime, it's a cousin to the lime), you'll see a bunch of translucent pearls. They can range in color from clear, green or pink. If you give the outside layer a squeeze, the pearl-like pulp will come tumbling out.
Finger limes are quite versatile. You can use them in drinks, marmalades, salads....You can also use the zest. The zest of finger limes is a bit unusual. It's thin and contains isomenthone, which is common in mint but unusual in citrus. My favorite way to use finger limes is to squeeze them onto fresh oysters (raw or grilled). Used as a garnish, the finger lime pearls add a nice kick of tanginess. One of the many cool things about finger limes is that you can freeze them (for 3-6 months). If you do this, you want to place them whole (uncut) on a baking sheet and once frozen, transfer them to an airtight container. When defrosting, defrost in the fridge.
Finger limes are a native bush to Australia so they're a bit hard to find but some farms (like Shanley Farms) in California have started growing them recently in small quantities. I was able to buy a container of them from the kind folks at Produce Express, which caterers to restaurants. So if you're in the restaurant biz you can order directly from them. Otherwise, I've seen finger limes at Whole Foods on occasion. Or you can grow your own! Four Winds Growers in Winters, CA sells them in 5 gallon size tree form to area retailers.
Grilled Oysters With Butter, Sriracha and Finger Lime "Caviar"
1 dozen fresh oysters (I prefer the large ones for grilling), scrubbed
1/2 stick of unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon of Sriracha
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan or Pecorino-Romano (optional)
5-6 finger limes, cut in half
1. Heat up your grill so it's VERY hot.
2. In a small bowl, mix up your butter, sriracha and sea salt. Place the bowl in the fridge for a bit to let it firm up.
3. Use an oyster shucker to open up your oysters. Be careful when popping the hinge, the shells are brittle and oftentimes sharp. Please don't slice open your hand.
* If you do not own a shucker or just don't want to shuck, you can place the closed oysters on your hot grill (cupped side on the bottom), with the top closed for 1-2 minutes. The oysters will open up on their own from the heat. Remove them as soon as the open.
4. Place a dollop of the butter-Sriracha mixture on each of your oyster. You can lightly sprinkle some Parmesan on the top too, if you wish. Place the oysters on the grill for 4-5 minutes (3-4 minutes if you popped them on the grill to open them). Use tongs to remove oysters from grate. The shell will be extremely hot.
5. Top with a squeeze of finger lime "caviar." Serve immediately.