Buddha’s hand, Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis, or the fingered citron, is an unusually shaped citron variety whose fruit is segmented into finger-like sections, resembling a human hand.
The different cultivars and variations of this citron variety form a gradient from “open-hand” types with outward-splayed segments to “closed-hand” types, in which the fingers are kept together. The origin of this kind of citron is commonly traced back to the Far East, probably northeastern India or China, where most domesticated citrus fruits originate from.
The Buddha’s hand is a distinct fruit in the citron family. It has a sweet, lemon blossom aroma. Its flesh is void of juice, pulp and seeds, rendering it inedible. The culinary virtues lie within its oily rind which is powerfully fragrant and aromatic and utilized for its zesting properties. The mild-tasting pith is not bitter, so the fruit can be zested or used whole. 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. In China, the Buddha’s hand fruit is a symbol of happiness, longevity and good fortune. It is also a traditional temple offering and a New Year’s gift.