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Food and Drink

The Zen of Citron

You’ll want to get your hands on this funky-good fruit.
By Anisha Mandol |

Don’t let its macabre looks fool you. Buddha’s hand, with its soft, lavenderlike aroma, is an intriguing member of the citrus family called citron. And unlike other citrus varieties, it produces no pulp or juice. Its body and gnarled fingerlike tentacles are made up of an aromatic rind and sweet, tender pith.

What does Buddha have to do with it, you ask? The fruit gets its name for its likeness to the various postures of the sage’s hands in prayer, and it has an ancient history in China and India where it is grown and used as an offering in Buddhist temples. The Japanese gift this fragrant symbol for the New Year to bestow happiness, wealth, and good fortune.

More than just its interesting form and aroma, Buddha’s hand is also high in vitamin C and low in calories—approximately 15 per ounce. Despite its lack of juice and pulp, it is used in various baking applications, traditional Chinese medicine, and creating perfumes. The citron is also used to complement many savory meals.

Find the fruit at Asian grocers and at Central Market from December through February, when citrus season is at its peak. Select a specimen with a waxy exterior and firm fingers that is vibrant yellow or orange in color. The fruit will keep for up to two weeks in the refrigerator or for a few days when kept at room temperature.

Buddah’s Salad

Serves 4

1 Buddha’s hand (average 1 pound)
1 small red onion
½ cup flat leaf parsley
¼ cup kalamata olives, pitted and quartered
¼ cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon Buddha’s hand zest
1 tablespoon agave syrup, light
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Zest 1 teaspoon of Buddha’s hand rind and set aside. Peel the remaining rind with a vegetable peeler (save for infusing vodka). Slice the white rind in long, thin slices. Put in a bowl. Peel and cut the onion into thin slices. Roughly chop the parsley. Combine the rind, onion, parsley, and olives in a bowl and toss together well. Whisk together the lemon juice, zest, agave syrup, and olive oil until fully incorporated. Add the dressing to the contents in the bowl, evenly covering the rind.

Cover and let the salad sit for an hour in the refrigerator before serving. To serve, transfer to a shallow dish and sprinkle with sea salt and cracked black pepper.