Fruit of the Month: Buddha’s Hands

Ahhh…the exotic and elusive Buddha’s Hand Citron. Coming face to face with this ancient, mystifying fruit is a special and unusual treat, even for the most seasoned fruit enthusiast, or as we like to call ourselves, zest heads.

These wondrous fruits, whose appearance can be likened to a golden squid or perhaps a dog-pile of slithering banana slugs, date back the fourth century when Buddhist monks would carry this graceful oddity from India to China, where it came to symbolize happiness, wealth and longevity. To this day, Buddha’s Hands are celebrated offerings during Chinese and Japanese New Year’s festivities, as they are believed to bestow good fortune on a household.

Those of us at the Food Forward headquarters recently have been blessed with the presence of these incredible, unearthly creatures where they’ve often served as the center of conversation around the ever-brewing Food Forward coffee pot: “Where did that come from?”, “How do they grow?”, “What do you do with it???”

So get ready, now is the time to enlighten you with our ponderous findings!

The origin of our Buddha’s Hands is a residential property in Shadow Hills, a small area in Northern Los Angeles. Yes! You can have your very own Buddha’s Hand tree, which is really more like a bush.

These fruits, which are actually the oldest known citrus in cultivation, are noted as a great indoor plant variety since they stay rather small and have no tolerance for frost temperatures. If you’re able to satisfy these warm temp lovers, Buddha’s bushes are ripe for harvesting during the winter months. Then, if fortunate enough to grow (or procure) one of these majestic creatures, you are left with the timeless question, WHAT DO I DO WITH IT?!

Well, the truth is you need to get creative. Buddha’s Hands typically have no pulp, so their fingers could be seen to some as ample surface area for zesting. But for most of us, turning this beautiful freak of a fruit into miniscule shreds just seems like a waste. If you’re the confectionist type, then candying them is a great way to go. I’ve also heard these conversation starters make incredible room fresheners, so you really needn’t do much at with them at all if you don’t want to.

Personally, I have found them to be wonderful additions to homemade concoctions. Buddha’s fingers shined in a steeped batch of wellness tea I made last week when it seemed like everyone I came into contact with had the plague… I mean, the flu. And if that wasn’t going to steer off the sickness, then by golly the Buddha’s Hand infused vodka I made would surely do the trick!

Regardless of what use you think is best, during this week leading up to Chinese New Year on the 19th, all of us at Food Forward would like to bestow the good tidings of the Buddha’s Hand upon you and wish you a very fruitful year to come!

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