Buddha's hand (also known as fingered citron) is basically a citron with an unusual shape. The fruit of this citron is divided into segments that resemble the fingers of a human hand.
Buddha's hand (scientific name Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis) belongs to the citrus family. In fact, it is among the oldest as well as the creepiest looking citrons you can find anywhere. The Buddha's hand is just the most excellent source of lemon zest.
The diverse cultivars as well as variations of the Buddha's hand take the shape of a gradient ranging from open-hand kind with the segments splayed outwardly to closed-hand forms, wherein the finger-like segments are close to each other. In addition, these citrons are also found in the form of half-fingered fruits, wherein the basal side is joined while the apical part is fingered. It is generally believed that this type of citron has its origin in the Far East, perhaps in the northern regions of India or in China. In fact, most domesticated citrus fruits have their origin in these places.
Similar to any other citron selection, Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis is also a small tree or a shrub having asymmetrical, elongated branched with prickly thorns. This species bears big, oblong-shaped leaves having a light green hue and measure anything between four inches and six inches in length. The flowers are white with a tinge of purple on the outside. They appear in aromatic clusters. The finger-like segment of this fruit just contains the white portion of the citron and occasionally it also contains a little of the acidic pulp. However, several of this finger-like part of a citron does not contain any juice and a number of them even do not enclose any seed.
The Buddha's hand (Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis) plant is susceptible to frost, in addition to being sensitive to extreme heat as well as drought. This species thrives excellently when grown in temperate climatic conditions. The ideal places for cultivating the Buddha's hand include the coastal regions of Southern California and the inland valleys. These trees can be propagated from cuttings taken from semi-mature branches which are aged between two and four years. Generally, the cuttings are grafted onto adequate rootstock.
Owing to its peculiar hand-like shape, the Buddha's hand has a vital role in several religious ceremonies. Since the prehistoric times, people in China have been using the Buddha's hand in the form of a medicinal herb for treating an assortment of diseases. This plant is also employed for making perfumes and its fruits are used for decorative purposes. While neither the plant, nor its fruit is popular worldwide, recently people are taking more and more interest in the fruit for its therapeutic as well as health promoting properties. Despite belonging to the citrus family, the Buddha's hand does not contain any juice or seed and has a bittersweet flavour along with a somewhat pungent taste, something akin to the flavour of lemon.
In Japan and China, people mostly used the fruit for its fragrance. They use it to freshen or scent their rooms. In addition, this fruit is widely used in making perfumes and fragrances that have a citrus base. While the fruit's flesh is not succulent, the little amount of pulp contained by the fruit has an unbelievably pungent flavour. Different from many other citrus fruits, the pith of Buddha's hand is not bitter.
Often people use the rind of Buddha's hand to prepare a stimulating marmalade. However, you can also add the rind of this fruit to your drinks to give a lemony flavour. Sometimes, chefs use the Buddha's hand in the form of a flavoring for various dishes. In addition, this fruit is also added to rice dishes and salads to enhance their tastes. Often, the rind is also used in the form of a main ingredient while preparing candy. This fruit can also be blended with yogurt or ice cream to provide an additional kick.
The Buddha's hand is a crusty fruit, which is gaining in popularity as a lemon substitute in several dishes. The best way to use this fruit is to first chop off the finger-like features, slice and then peel them. You can use all the fingers of this fruit while cooking.
While purchasing Buddha's hand, opt for the fruits that are firm and have a bright yellow color. In addition, ensure that even the terminals of the finger-like features of the fruit have a uniform color, without being brownish, limp or soft in any aspect. Do not purchase or use any Buddha's hand fruit that have become soft or started decomposing. Even avoid the fruits that have become dry or have a dry appearance when touched.
If you just require a small quantity of the fruit (in fact, a small amount of Buddha's hand goes a long way), you may ask people growing or selling this citron to cut only one finger for you. It is worth mentioning here that Buddha's hand is sold by the pound and the fruit is quite costly.
When you smell a ripened and healthy Buddha's hand, it should be able to engulf the senses with a lemony fragrance. In fact, when you cut the fruit slightly or even scratch it a little using your fingernails, the fruit should overpower your senses.
Usually, Buddha's hand does not require being stored in a refrigerator provided you plan to consume it soon. Nevertheless, the fruit will remain viable for a longer period when stored in a refrigerator. When the fruits attain level of sweetness you prefer, you can store the fruit or its remaining parts in a refrigerator with a view to prolong its shelf life.
Generally, citrus fruits do not ripen much after they have been harvested. You can, however, allow the fruits to gain an elevated brix or sugar level if you allow the fruit to remain on the tree for a longer period. It has been observed that citrus fruits harvested early in the season have a tendency to be somewhat tart, while those harvested during the end of the season are inclined to molding.
Buddha's hand contains a number of therapeutic chemical compounds like coumarin, diosmin and limonin. As a result people of many cultures have used this fruit for several thousand years for alleviating pain. These chemical compounds along with the anti-inflammatory property of Buddha's hand help to provide relief from pain and swelling caused by a variety of reasons, including surgeries and injuries to common bruises and bangs. Often, people believed that consumption of Buddha's hand helped to accelerate healing of wounds and also lighten the marks left by bruises.
Buddha's hand is also commonly used for treating problems related to the respiratory system. This fruit also serves as an expectorant. Therefore, people struggling with extreme coughing that result in catarrh or phlegm may find consuming this fruit beneficial. Buddha's hand is often used as a handy remedy to relieve pain quickly. The fruit can prove to be more effective if you immerse it in a sugar solution in a bowl before consuming it.
For people suffering from bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and stomach disorders Buddha's hand can be an useful remedy. This fruit works by alleviating the inflammation in the lining of the stomach and soothing the muscles in the intestines, thereby ensuring that digestion as well as excretion can take place in the normal way.
This citron is also beneficial for women, especially those suffering from abnormally strong menstrual periods accompanied by strong bleeding, cramps and mood swings. Traditionally, the Buddha's hand has been considered to be an effective natural remedy for these symptoms. Aside from anti-inflammatory properties, Buddha's hand also possesses antioxidant attributes that makes this fruit an excellent remedy for women troubled with the above mentioned problems.
Buddha's hand contains a particular polysaccharide, which is especially associated with promoting macrophage activity. In addition, this polysaccharide also helps to accelerate as well as improve the functioning of the immune system. Usually, this is generally considered to be a preventive measure so that the immune system remains robust and strong, it is advisable that you should also consume Buddha's hand if you have a cold or flu. Consuming this fruit in such conditions can improve the recuperation time significantly.
In fact, an alcohol extract obtained from Buddha's hand imitates a vasodilator, which relaxes as well as dilates (widens) the coronary blood vessels, thereby improving blood circulation and lowering high blood pressure effectively. At the same time, this alcoholic extract also helps to diminish the risks of developing atherosclerosis or suffering a stroke or heart attack. These effects of consuming Buddha's hand or the alcohol extract from the fruit helps to lessen the stress and tension on the cardiovascular system significantly, thereby promoting a healthy lifestyle for a prolonged period.
Similar to any other citrus fruit, Buddha's hand is also loaded with vitamin C that serves as a potent antioxidant. As most of us are aware, antioxidants forage and neutralize the harmful free radicals, thereby protecting the cells and tissues from oxidative damages. Antioxidants also facilitate our body to combat infections and, at the same time, lessen the chances of developing various forms of cancers. Moreover, antioxidants inhibit the natural aging process of the skin cells, thereby making skin appear youthful and attractive. It also helps to prevent premature aging. Buddha's hand contains a compound called limonin, which possesses anti-carcinogenic properties. This property of the fruit helps it to combat colorectal tumours and cancer effectively.
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), Buddha's hand is used in the form of a remedial herb that is used to cure inflammation in the lungs, liver and spleen. In addition, the fruit is employed for treating loss of appetite, vomiting and providing relief from pain. It has been found that Buddha's hand is also useful in decreasing chest pain as well as distension. Buddha's hand has been traditionally employed to lessen swelling and provide relief from pain.
Apart from the chemical compounds mentioned above, Buddha's hand also encloses pectin, which is effective in significantly lowering the levels of blood cholesterol. It has been established that consumption of Buddha's hand also promotes blood circulation and enhances metabolism of ingested fats, thereby putting off build-up of fat in the arterial walls. The effect of Buddha's hand helps to shield the heart from stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.