Bush tucker all the rage
By ED SOUTHORN
WHEN TV super chef Jamie Oliver starts talking about finger limes, a lot of people take notice.
According to Tweed and Coolangatta Tourism consultant Claire Cooper, the native Australian bush tucker plant is fast becoming a flavour of the month among top 'foodies'.
Chillingham grower Gerard Buchanan is well-placed to take advantage of the expected boom in finger limes - much smaller than ordinary limes, with caviar-like flesh balls releasing a burst of tangy flavour when chewed.
Finger limes currently are mixed in fish tempura batter, spread on oysters and prawns and dunked in gin and tonic drinks.
Gerard predicts finger limes could generate as much revenue for the Tweed as macadamias have done elsewhere in the Northern Rivers.
"A lot of banana growers could do well with them, no doubt," he said.
He is hoping to obtain exclusive plant supplier rights for a seedless variety of finger limes, after seven years of grafting reseach.
Gerard's picturesque roadside property is part of TACTIC's latest gourmet tourism trail, showcasing the Tweed's emerging fine food industry.
He began supplying finger limes to capital city markets in the late 1990s, when he realised the declining banana industry was no longer a long-term prospect for his farm.
Gerard also grows 'buddha hands' and citron, both with tangy rinds used to increase flavours when cooking, among an amazing variety of bush tucker trees.
But it is the finger limes which Gerard believes have the broadest market potential and the best revenue prospects, pro- vided growers don't choose poor quality varieties.
"Mine are native to the area, they crop heavy and I get nearly 10 months (of harvesting) from them," Gerard said.
He recently began supplying his finger limes direct to a Noosa restaurant and expects Kingscliff's restaurants will soon also be using the tiny fruit.
Gerard is planning to grow up to 300 finger lime trees of his seedless variety.
"It's a new crop and it could become very important, provided there are no disease prob- lems," he said.
He also grows the better known kaffir limes.
Gerard is working on introducing a new lemon variety with a very appealing taste.
He's also talking about the possibility of seedless manda- rins.