Finger Lime Interest Expands in Florida

Tacy Callies Limes

finger lime
UF SunLime

Florida is not a major producer of finger limes — yet. Australia has the most finger lime acreage in the world, and most U.S. finger limes are grown in California and Hawaii. But Florida’s acreage is expanding, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) horticulturist Manjul Dutt reported during a Dec. 20 presentation at the Citrus Research and Education Center (CREC). His presentation was part of an OJ Break hosted by multi-county citrus Extension agent Chris Oswalt.  

Dutt, an assistant professor, said there is stakeholder interest in finger lime cultivation, especially in Central and South Florida. He said many consumers like the tangy flavor of the citrus relative because finger limes are less acidic than regular limes. The juice vesicles in finger limes are globular and sometimes likened to caviar. Chefs and mixologists clearly desire red-colored finger limes because they are very attractive on plates and in drinks, he said. And, he added, consumers are willing to pay high prices for finger limes — at least $3 for 1.4 ounces.

Dutt said UF/IFAS’ focus on finger limes is to develop new varieties that can grow in the Florida environment while resisting HLB and other diseases.

According to Dutt, two UF/IFAS finger lime releases — UF SunLime and UF RedLime — have “attractive external appearance that enhances fresh market potential.”

UF SunLime is a medium-sized bush. Seven-year-old plants in Lake Alfred, where the CREC is located, were 8 feet tall. A 6-year-old tree can produce approximately 150 fruit, Dutt said.

UF RedLime plants at Lake Alfred reached about 6 feet at 6 years old. A 6-year-old plant can produce 80 to 90 fruit. Dutt said preliminary indications are that the RedLime is highly tolerant of HLB. No bacterium have been detected in the trees.

In commercial settings, finger lime trees can follow the same nutrition regime as citrus production, Dutt added.

About the Author

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large