A passion for education, agriculture and unique Australian produce has led Jade King down a path she never thought she would travel, and into the world of native finger lime production. SOPHIE BALDWIN has the story.

Described as a ‘citrus caviar’, the delicate beads are a lime-flavoured experience that burst in your mouth and it is that uniqueness, that has seen the indigenous fruit find its way into dishes and onto the table of some of the best cooks in the country.

While the finger lime is still very much a niche market product, it is gaining popularity not just for its taste, but also for its nutritional content.

And with more than 65 different varieties of the finger lime identified in the wild there is a diverse range of shapes, peels and colours. However, all varieties share the caviar-like pulp.

Jade King first came across the finger lime when she was out in the bush which prompted her to have a go at growing a bush on her 29-hectare Queensland property.

“Personally, I am a lover of all of Australian native produce and when I discovered finger limes growing out in the bush, I really wanted to grow one at home so I bought one from a market stall but it quickly died,” she said.

Jade said she found the spiky bush and the unusual fruit fascinating and quite typical for Aussie fruit — rough on the outside but unique and sweet on the inside.

As a senior agronomist and head of agriculture at Glasshouse Christian College, Jade was able to revisit her love of finger limes when she came across a student project to grow the unusual fruit.

Next minute she had 350 finger limes in the ground and was accidentally on her way to becoming a commercial grower.

“I describe myself very much as an accidental but passionate grower,” Jade said.

Establishing Green Valley Fingerlimes in Beerwah, in Queensland, 12 years ago has been a labour of love, quite literally.

Today Jade has more than 2000 trees in the ground — 1200 Red Champagne, 400 Chartreuse and 400 Emeralds, which she is currently in the process of developing.

Each variety is grown for its different characteristics.

The Red Champagne for its colours and unique nutritional benefits; the Chartreuse for its flavour, soft green skin and clear crystal pearl; while the Emerald’s darker skin has a better shelf life and an attractive vibrant green pearl.

Green Valley Fingerlimes in Beerwah, in Queensland,

The finger limes are harvested from December through to August with peak production between the months of January to May.

Grown on a thorny, understorey shrub or tree, picking the fruit is hard going and requires protective gear including long-sleeve shirts and gloves.

“Not many people ever come back to help pick again because it is such hard work,” Jade said.

A small bush can easily grow into a full-sized tree but Jade prefers to keep hers around the 2m by 2m in size. She prunes out all the dead and infected material to open up the tree and help with ease of harvesting.

Some growers hedge prune their orchards but Jade prefers to selectively prune hers.

The orchard is mounded up to help with adequate drainage.

Jade utilises a slow-release fertiliser program four times a year and adds organic manure and low trace elements through the fertigation system. She has found analysing soil and leaf data to be beneficial for management.

Green Valley Fingerlimes in Beerwah, in Queensland,

Once handpicked, the finger limes are taken to the packing shed on the farm where they are dried under a fan and then packed fresh for the Australian market or exported overseas.

Jade said the produce is packed in varying sizes of 100g for small users through to 1kg to 2kg boxes for the bigger users like restaurants and wholesale markets, both here and overseas.

Jade said she has travelled the world and seen finger limes grown across many different climates from snowy regions to temperate climates and here in Australia they are grown from Queensland through to Victoria.

“I was lucky enough to travel the world under a Nuffield Scholarship and finger limes are definitely a very hardy tree that can be grown anywhere.”

She said the Australian finger lime industry is currently expanding rapidly and now leads the world in commercial production, as well as becoming a world leader in research and development.

Green Valley Fingerlimes in Beerwah, in Queensland,

Jade recently became the chair of the Australian Native Fingerlime Association (ANFA) board, which was established as a peak industry body.

ANFA’s aims to promote and foster proactive management and advance the interests of Australian commercial growers.

“The board aims to lead ANFA as a responsive and innovative industry body that engages the whole value chain and ensures Australia remains the leaders in world production and research of its endemic native citrus,” Jade said.

ANFA intends to establish and maintain an industry database to support grower communication, forecasting and marketing initiatives, biosecurity, research and development.

Jade said she is just as passionate about the industry today as she was when she first started.

“I love meeting other growers and hearing their stories, it really is a wonderful industry to be involved in.”


Australian native finger limes.


Australian native finger limes.