Nestled high in the rainforest of the Border Ranges, gazing out across the Scenic Rim, sits an orchard of native finger limes owned by Ian Douglas and his wife Margie.
Purchased in 1982, the Running Creek property was initially intended as a home away from home but has now become the heart of the Lime Caviar Company. “We had this beautiful property in South East Queensland in an area where finger limes grow wild,” Ian said. “We actually tasted a few finger limes and thought wow this is a product that’s got to be taken to the world.”
The first trees were planted in 2006 after watching a show about the ancient citrus on ABC’s Landline. “We and other growers had to learn from scratch,” admits Ian. “There is very little in publications about the growing of finger limes.” After working as a barrister for more than 40 years, Ian now enjoys the challenge of a new trade and lifestyle. “It’s exciting to be at the forefront of a new industry to become world leaders in Australia.”
In 2013, the Douglases made the permanent shift to life on the farm and poured all their passion and energy into making a big name for this little fruit. Picking season is in full swing from January to June and days on the farm are divided between picking, packing and processing. With orders to fill both nationally and internationally, no one day is ever the same, they say. But it has not always been easy pickings for these finger lime lovers. When the industry first started, trees did not always survive, and products did not always sell. Ian and Margie overcame what other growers could not, only to face more challenges.
Queensland fruit fly concerns have prevented the Lime Caviar Company from shipping fresh products to international buyers. Ian lobbied the Federal Government, not believing limes host flies. Government funding has now been provided to Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries to conduct a study which Ian hopes will confirm his belief. This obstacle sparked the idea to remove the juice filled pearls from the fruit and freeze them to be sold in areas where importation of the fresh fruit is prohibited. Thanks to this process, the company’s namesake product is now on the international market. “This product really has overcome a number of the difficulties which have arisen because of the fruit fly problem.”
Despite the challenges they have faced, Ian is proud to be amongst the niche group of Australian finger lime farmers. “Australian farmers are pretty good at what they do and I think finger lime growers fall into that category.”
Ian and Margie’s finger limes are used in premier restaurants throughout the country in a huge variety of dishes from seafood to cocktails to icecream. “You can use it right through the menu from start to finish. It’s a special product from a special location.”
The Lime Caviar finger lime farm continues to prove rewarding for the Douglases who are more than happy to have made their green (lime) change six years ago.
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