There I was. Walking around in the botanical garden. Minding my own business. Staring at plants and trees. Talking to them. I love saying hello to plants! It was bright & sunny and hot in Los Angeles. Perfect weather for green introductions.
From the corner of my eye, I saw four women walk off the designated path and onto the soil next to what looked like a bush of some sort. Wow! How brazen of them to break the rules like this! What if someone came along, scolded them and maybe even threw them out of the garden?! That would be SO embarrassing.
I waited for them to leave the scene of the crime and then made a beeline for it, to investigate of course. I too went off of the designated path but I was doing it for investigative purposes.
I saw these things hanging off of the branches of this bush. They looked like small chillies from a distance but more like human fingers that had curled after being burned to a crisp. I was morbidly FASCINATED!
Photographing this weird thing became a priority. I caught a branch closest to my face, held up my smartphone and as I was proceeding to click on the shutter button, I could see, from the corner of my eye, an official green cart driving up on the designated path.
But then, I thought, I was alone. I was wearing a long black dress. Female. I screamed TOURIST anyway. The official person in the cart would probably just drive right by me. It wasn’t like I was plucking or destroying anything. Even the soil I was standing on was completely devoid of anything green.
The cart came to a halt right behind me and NOW THEY WERE SAYING SOMETHING OMG!
I forced myself to turn around in the most nonchalant-Naina-way possible.
I shouldn’t have bothered. They were, very excitedly, telling me what plant I was clutching! A white bearded white man in gardener overalls, jumped out of the cart and ran toward me with much gusto. Proceeded to locate the metal plate that described the plant / genus etc., uprooted said metal plate from the soil and re-planted it at a more visible location.
They also tore out two of the black fingers and bit into one while offering the other one to me. I was in a bit of a shock. The instructions while entering clearly mentioned that we had to stay on the designated path and that we must not, under any circumstances, pluck the plants or eat the fruit or take seeds or cuttings from ANYTHING.
Yet. Here was this man, clearly an official employee of the botanical garden, giddily offering a weird thing to me and to top it all, I was supposed to EAT IT?!
He’d just bitten into it himself and he seemed to be enjoying it. Trust established, I reached out and took the other burnt finger from his hand. He was talking to me all throughout. But I couldn’t really understand. “Lion Finger”?
Then I finally saw the name and description and it said something something “microcitrus” and my brain lit up. The burnt fingers were a citrusy fruit of some sort and since the gardener was eating one, it was definitely not poisonous. So, I bit into it.
Thin skin. Tasted like a lemon. The inside pulp was like mini-pearls. Caviar-like. And they OOZED out of the fruit of their own accord. Sparkling in the sunlight, full of tangy juice, which I love.
I was too dumbfounded but the man had already jumped back into his cart and was waving goodbye. He had a huge grin plastered on his face and but naturally, so did I!
What a first experience with Finger Limes! These are supposed to be native to Australia ( which meant that I had reached the Australian Garden part of the botanical gardens, duh! ) and quite delightful.
The images below were combined to create the featured image above.