Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis.....Buddha's Hand

Growing in the Cortijo Azahar Garden

Buddha's hand citronbushukan in Japan or fingered citron, produces deep lemon yellow fruits that vary in shape and size. The fruit splits at the opposite end of the tree's stem forming segments that have a wild finger-like appearance, hence its given name. 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.

Buddha fingers are commonly used to flavour a dish. The fruit is popular for the use in desserts, salads and savoury dishes. Buddha fingers rind give citrus nuances to enhance sauces or dressings. The thick peel of the fingers have a strong aroma and can be eaten. Buddha fingers are a great substitute for ordinary lemons.
Cut of the fingers and wash them. From here, the skin may be peeled. Then the fingers can be sliced into pieces. Either add the Buddha fingers raw or cooked to a dish.

 Buddha fingers should overwhelm your senses with lemon when freshly cut or even lightly scratched with your fingernail. Avoid any fingers with soft or brown spots. Buddha fingers can best be kept refrigerated and consumed within a few days.
  • Buddha fingers have many names including: Buddha's hand, Buddha's hand citron, Fingered citron and Goblin fingers.
  • 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 hand, as closed hands symbolize to Buddha the act of prayer.
  • The golden fruit is especially popular at New Year, for it is believed to bestow good fortune on a household.
  • In China and Japan, Buddha fingers are mainly used as an air freshener.  The fruit is also popular in fragrances and perfumes with a citrus base.

Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis, or Buddha's hand, is an unusual member of the citrus family. The varietal name sarcodactylis is from the Greek sarkos meaning "fleshy" and dactylos meaning "finger". These graceful, fleshy fingers appear to gesture and invite you in for a closer look at this curious fruit.

The finger citron, as it is also sometimes called, has fruit that can range from 10-25cm long. The fruit starts out green, then turns yellowish-orange when ripe. It is composed of 5-20 finger-like segments, and the arrangement of these segments can vary.  the "fingers" can be held in a closed position like the one pictured above, or the segments can be more widely spread apart.

Citrus species have been in cultivation for thousands of years which makes exact origins difficult to define. It is suggested they were initially understorey trees in the forests of southeast Asia and that Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis, in particular, may have originated in northwestern India.

Buddha's hand is also known as the Fingered Citron.   It has been respected for centuries in China and Japan, where it is used for perfuming rooms and clothing, and in religious ceremonies.  Although it smells powerfully of lemon, it has no juicy pulp hidden below its peel. Instead, the Buddha's Hand is grown commercially for its great taste. The fragrant rind is used flavour lemon liqueurs and specialty vodkas, and provides fragrance to lemon-scented cosmetics. Chinese and Japanese households suspend it in their homes as a natural air freshener, and it still has a place in some religious ceremonies. The fruit has a yellow rind when mature, and contains no flesh, juice or seeds. Although Buddha's Hand is popular for its decorative importance, the rind of the fruit is also eaten in some Asian countries. The tree has large fibrous leaves and has thorns. Trees are small and can be developed in a container. Citrons are sensitive to cold more sensitive than lemons, and will necessitate a tepid frost-free place.