Australia has at least six species of native citrus that can be found from the harsh desert to tropical rainforest. Previously they were classified in two genera (Eremocitrus and Microcitrus). However, recent taxonomic work has lead to their reclassification and they are now included in the genus Citrus (along with oranges, lemons, limes, etc).
Native species are able to hybridise with a range of other citrus species, the CSIRO has lead the way as well as some private cultivators being produced. There has been successful grafting onto conventional citrus root-stocks as well as private growers trying to break into a commercial market with their own combinations of wild varieties, tested root-stocks and various examples of citrus. These abilities, along with attributes such as drought and salinity tolerance and disease resistance, have long attracted the interest of citrus researchers and breeders. Improved selections and hybrids of native citrus also have potential in their own right for commercial production of fruit for both the fresh and high-value processing markets. Chefs from Australia and abroad have long delighted at the beauty, flavour and versatility of Australian Native Citrus.
The following blogs are devoted to the Citrus Australasica commonly known as the Australian Finger Lime, which can be found as an understorey shrub or tree in rainforests in southern Queensland and northern New South Wales. Finger Limes have been found growing wild on ridges and flats, in a wide range of soil types. Some have even been found growing on a sandstone hillside. When established, they are a hardy shrub!
Finger Limes produce finger-shaped fruit, up to 10cm long, with thin green or yellow skin and green-yellow compressed juice vesicles that tend to burst out when the skin is cut, the fruit is acidic and flavuorsome, not dissimilar to a Tahitian Lime, but with a more subtle flavour. A pink to red-fleshed form with red to purple or even black skin also occurs in the wild. Fruit from wild harvest and limited plantings are used by the native food industry, with our own trials and plantings we are hoping to add something to the Native Food Industry.
We have been trialling different varieties, rootstocks and environments for 18 months and will continue to test and learn then plant a small orchard in Spring 2007 or 2008. The following pages are a blog of our quest to achieve these goals!