Common Names: Blood Lime
Habitat: Blood lime is native to Austrilia
Blood limes (or ‘Australian Blood Lime’) are a hybrid citrus fruit developed by the CSIRO project to investigate salt-resistant crops.
While the limes proved unsuitable for high-salt conditions, they have seen some commercial development; the first commercial crop appeared in markets in Australia in July 2004, and are under consideration for export.
The blood lime is smaller than most limes, approximately 4 cm long by 2 cm diameter, and somewhat more sweet than the standard. It is egg-shaped in the winter. The flesh inside a blood lime is composed of red-orange vesicles. The skin can be eaten with the fruit, it is mostly red or burgundy, but can sometimes be green like the standard lime.
The blood lime is a cross between the red finger lime (Citrus australasica var. sanguinea) and the ‘Ellendale Mandarin’ hybrid. The Ellendale is a sweet orange/mandarin cross. The medium sized trees which have thorns, may be planted as an ornamental, but are only available at some nurseries across Australia.
Blood lime is a hybrid citrus resulting from the open pollination of a flower of Citrus australasica var. sanguinea – the red finger lime, until recently known botanically as Microcitrus australasica. The pollen parent was either a Rangpur lime or an Ellendale Mandarin. Both these varieties are themselves citrus hybrids. The Rangpur is probably a cross between a lemon and a mandarin, and so sometimes called a lemanderin. It is an attractive fruit with a very acidic taste and orange peel and flesh. The Ellendale originated in Bundaberg, Queensland, Australia around 1878. It is believed to be a natural cross of a mandarin and an orange. The Ellendale Mandarin fruit is deep orange, with high sugar as well as acid content, which gives it a rich, sweet, tangy flavour.
The original Blood Lime parent tree was selected in 1990 at CSIRO, Merbein, Victoria, Australia. This agricultural research facility closed in 2009, and all the citrus plants were destroyed. The land was sold in 2012.
Under the right conditions the tree produces striking, blood-red coloured fruit, on an attractive, dense, upright shrub to small tree, usually 2m to 3 m high and 2m wide. It has dark, glossy-green foliage and purple-red growth flushes. The oval shaped leaves are approximately 25 to 35mm long by 15mm wide, with slightly serrated edges. Short, stiff, slender spines (which can damage the fruit) are present in the leaf axils.
Fruits ripen in winter, are oval in shape and are usually 30 to 50 mm long, by 20 to 30 mm wide. The skin colour may range from gold, with red flecking, to a uniform intense blood red, while flesh and juice may show red tinges or may occasionally be more intensely red. Seasonal, geographic and harvest timing appear to influence the intensity of colour development. At Merbein, the fruit of their experimental planting ripened in June to August with the fruit remaining on the tree with colour until October. For the northern hemisphere, this equates to ripening in December to February, and hanging until April.
Seeds are small and plump. Juice squeezed from the fruit has a sharp, crisp, clean flavour.
The Blood Limes are relatively acidic like a lemon, but are excellent when used in sauces. They can also be used as an ingredient for preserves, condiments and beverages, or fresh as an attractive garnish for sweet and savoury dishes. They are less aromatically perfumed than a true lime.