Buddha’s hand, Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis or fingered citron, is a fragrant citron variety whose fruit is segmented into finger-like sections. The origin of Buddha’s hand plant is traced back to Northeastern India or China.
Buddha’s hand fruit, side of “closed hand” appearance when unripe
Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis is a shrub or small tree with long, irregular branches covered in thorns. Its large, oblong leaves are pale green and grow about four to six inches. Its white flowers are tinted purplish from the outside and grow in fragrant clusters.
The Buddha’s hand fruit has a thick peel and only a small amount of acidic flesh (if any) and is juiceless and sometimes seedless.
Buddha’s hand fruit is very fragrant and is used predominantly in China and Japan for perfuming rooms and personal items such as clothing. The fruit may be given as a religious offering in Buddhist temples. According to tradition, Buddha prefers the “fingers” of the fruit to be in a position where they resemble a closed rather than open hand, as closed hands symbolize to Buddha the act of prayer.
The peel of the fruit can be candied into succade. In Western cooking, it is often used for its zest. The inner white pith is not bitter as is usually the case with citrus, so the fingers may be cut off and then longitudinally sliced, peel, pith, and all, and used in salads or scattered over cooked foods such as fish.
Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis is cultivated for fruit crops and as an ornamental tree in gardens and containers on patios and terraces. It is sensitive to frost, as well as intense heat and drought. It grows best in temperate conditions.