The native citrus that adorns plates of oysters in the best restaurants and adds a zing to expensive cocktails is a far cry from the plant used as natural barbed wire by colonial settlers.
The citrus is the finger lime and it is seriously in vogue.
“You can see it still in some places,” said Michael Griffiths, a mid north coast finger lime grower.
“They find a circle of finger lime trees near the remains of a house.
“The settlers in pre-gold rush days surrounded the vegetable gardens with them to keep out the wildlife.
“It’s a horrible plant to pick the limes off because it is covered in spikes, but you can’t use gloves because you need to feel the fruit to make sure it is ripe to be picked.”
After initially planting Tahitian limes to act as protective hedges, Mr Griffiths realised finger limes were well suited to the mid north coast climate.
“The natives bring a decent price, yield fruit at different times of the year to the Tahitian variety, and are a tough, resilient plant,” Mr Griffiths said.
The flesh of the finger lime is caviar-like and has a unique, tangy, acidic flavour.
“The market seems to be growing,” Mr Griffiths said.
“There is a an increasing demand in Australia, though it is specialised, and most of the fruit is snapped up by restaurants for their chefs.
“I think in the future they will become more widely available as the public gets a taste for them.”