This unusually shaped yellow citron fruit has segments shaped like fingers that resemble those of a Buddha representation. This quick guide the fruit also known as “fingered citron” presents tips for buying and storing, as well as how to use Buddha’s hand, with links to recipes.
How does Buddha’s hand taste? This unusual fruit is mainly used in recipes for its lemony zest and peel, as most varieties of the fruit do not contain any fruit or pulp to consume. It isn’t a source of many nutrients other than Vitamin C. It also has a decent amount of fiber.
Primarily, it seems, this uncanny-looking fruit is consumed more for novelty, as it’s likely as much fun to look at as it is to eat.
A little fruit history and lore
Although the exact history behind this strange fruit is unclear, historians believe it was brought to China from northeastern India as a result of traveling Buddhist monks.
Cathy Thomas writes in Melissa’s Great Book of Produce, “In China, this curvaceous citron is a symbol of happiness, longevity, and good fortune. It has been given as a new year’s gift, used as a temple offering, or placed next to cash registers in shops for luck.”
How to use Buddha’s hand
All you have to do is break off a “finger” and grate it over your favorite dishes, or incorporate it into muffins and salad dressings. It’s even possible to make hard candy with the zest.
If you don’t feel like putting your chef’s hat on, but still want to enjoy its beautiful floral aroma, you can set the fruit on your counter or as a decorative ornament in a room and enjoy the lemon and lavender scent for up to two weeks.
The following practical tips for making the most of Buddha’s hand is excerpted and adapted from Melissa’s Great Book of Produce by Cathy Thomas, reprinted by permission of Melissa’s Produce.
Buying and storage
Choose bright yellow fruit that’s firm and fragrant. Avoid those with blemished or mold. Store at room temperature for up to 2 weeks, or refrigerate for 4 weeks.
You might be able to order from supermarkets with large specialty produce sections. Look for this fruit at Asian groceries, and very occasionally at farmer’s markets.
Your best bet may be to order online from sources like Melissa’s Produce. Seasonal availability is late September through early January.
How to prep Buddha’s hand
This fruit looks so intriguing that it may be difficult to take a knife to the complex network of “digits.” Remove the zest (outer, colorful part of the peel) with a zester (the same kind you’d use for lemons). Or, for larger pieces, use a vegetable or paring knife.
More ideas and recipes for Buddha’s hand
Sorbet: Make sorbet using Meyer lemon juice, augmented with shredded zest of Buddha’s hand. Here’s a basic recipe for Meyer Lemon Sorbet — sprinkle a generous amount of the zest to heighten its flavor.
Good luck centerpiece: You need not eat these fruits at all; use them for decor! These fruits look lovely arranged with other fruits as a centerpiece of incorporated into flower arrangements.
Swap in for lemon or lime zest: Substitute an equal amount of finely minced Buddha’s hand zest in any recipe calling for either lemon or lime zest.
“Longevity” vodka: Wash the whole fruit well with cold water. Dry thoroughly and place in a wide-mouth jar. Cover with vodka until totally submerged. To hold down fruit, it may be necessary to weight it down with a plate or mug. Seal and place in a cool dark location for 4 to 5 days. Strain into a bottle.
If giving as a gift, tie a fresh small Buddha’s hand to the neck of the bottle. Enjoy in cocktails or pasta sauces that call for vodka. Here’s another approach to making Buddha’s Hand Citron-Infused Vodka.
Other cocktails: You can use it to make other unusual cocktails, like Buddha’s Hand Gimlet-tini.
More offbeat non-alcoholic beverages: Incorporate into other palate-pleasing beverages like Buddha’s Hand + Pineapple Sparkler, with notes of lemongrass and rosemary.
Candied citron: It stands to reason that like other citrus fruit peel candy, the nearly all-peel fruit “finger” are good for candying. Here’s a basic recipe for Candied Buddha’s Hand Citron.
Add zest to smoothies: That’s to be taken literally — a small amount of this fruit’s zest adds zesty flavor to fruit smoothies, like this Tropical Fruit Smoothie.
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