September 29, 2022
TOKUSHIMA — Efforts are underway to make finger limes, a citrus fruit native to Australia, a juicy draw as a Tokushima Prefecture specialty.
This fiscal year, the prefectural government began full-fledged experimental cultivation of the premium fruit, also called “forest caviar” because its texture is similar to the marine product. Some businesses have already started selling the fruit online, hoping to carve out a new local specialty to join the sudachi Japanese citrus.
Finger limes are 5 to 10 centimeters long and their slender shape resembles a finger, as the name suggests.
When the skin is removed, a pulp of tiny beads is revealed. Depending on the variety, the color of the pulp varies from green to pink to yellow, and is used to add color to carpaccio and salads, as well as in glasses of sparkling wine as a floating garnish.
The prefecture took notice of the fruit, which is sold at high prices to restaurants, noting that only few farmers in Japan were cultivating them and that they weren’t being grown locally.
However the period when the fruit ripens and the way the branches spread differ across varieties, as does the sharpness of the thorns.
To ascertain which varieties were suitable for cultivation, the prefecture began full-scale cultivation on a trial basis this fiscal year at the prefecture-run Tokushima Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Technology Support Center.
In the facility’s greenhouses, which see temperatures as high as 40 C during the day, there stand about 50 potted trees, each bearing lots of finger limes.
“There are many who don’t know about the methods of cultivation, but we want to become the first growing area for the fruit in the country,” an official at the center said.
Over the next three years, the prefecture plans to select varieties suitable for cultivation and establish cultivation methods.
Some businesses have started selling finger limes. For example, Ougonnomura (The Golden Village), an agricultural company based in the Kito area of Naka town in the prefecture, has been growing finger limes for about five years.
The company sold 20 sets of the fruit on a trial basis in 2021, soon running out of stock. It began selling the fruit on its website (https://shop.ogonnomura.jp/) in July. One set of four to six finger limes weighs 50 grams and is priced at ¥4,320 (tax included). There have been many inquiries from outside the prefecture, the company said.
Currently, the company grows about 100 trees at two locations in the area.
“In the future, we hope to increase production in collaboration with neighboring sudachi farmers,” said a staff member in charge.