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What Do You Do with Buddha’s Hand Citron & Is It Good for You?



As a chef and a product developer, I am always interested in learning more about different ingredients, their flavor, and their benefits. Recently, I’ve been learning about Buddha's hand citron, sometimes called the fingered citron. Its unusual shape certainly draws attention, and you’ll immediately notice it when you see it in a store.

Buddha’s hand citron is available in Wholefoods market and several other stores, though it definitely isn’t as common as many other fruits.

When looking at it, you can see that it has a familiar citrus peel, but it doesn’t exactly look juicy like a lemon or an orange. Also, it has what look like fingers.

So, what can you do with them? Do they taste good? Do they have any health benefits? Here is what you need to know about Buddha’s hand citron.


What is Buddha’s Hand Citron?

Buddha’s hand citron is a citrus fruit that, as its name suggests, looks like a hand. Most have between five and 20 fleshy segments that look like fingers. Sometimes you’ll see them appear to be a closed hand, with the “fingers” close together, while other times they’ll be splayed out to look more like an open hand.

Sometimes, the “hand” opens more as the fruit grows, but a “closed hand” doesn’t necessarily mean that the fruit isn’t ripe[i].

Buddha’s hand citron is often displayed as good luck in China, and it’s even used as a New Year’s gift in Japan, where it is considered a token of good fortune[ii]. But just because it has such an incredible look, it doesn’t mean that it should only be used for its appearance. There are many ways to use Buddha’s hand citron in recipes and a lot of health benefits to doing so.


How Can You Use Buddha’s Hand Citron?

Buddha's hand citron looks beautiful, yet strange. It certainly has a distinctive shape, but can you eat it? The answer is yes. Even though it may not look thick and juicy like many other citrus fruits, there are still many ways to eat it.

It doesn’t have flesh or seeds[iii], making it quite different from other citrus fruits. It’s mostly rind, but it still has a fragrant smell and a zest, just like others.

One of the most common ways to use the Buddha’s hand citron is for its zest[iv]. In nearly any recipe that calls for citrus zest, you can use Buddha’s Hand citron as a powerful substitute. Note that a little goes a long way, since the aroma is quite powerful and intense.

It’s also commonly used in many desserts, from cakes and cookies to candies and much more[v]. Despite its strong smell, its taste is quite mild and not bitter, so it works great in many different recipes.

This is great, because there are some significant health benefits to eating Buddha’s hand citron.



Buddha’s Hand Citron Health Benefits

There are a lot of great reasons to add Buddha’s hand citron to your recipes, beyond its pleasing odor and mild yet pleasant taste.

It can nourish the liver, warm the stomach, prevent vomiting, and alleviate symptoms of a cold stomach and phlegm[vi]. It’s an excellent choice for cleansing the body and helping soothe pain or congestion in the chest. It also possesses anti-inflammatory agents that help to reduce swelling and pain.

Chronic inflammation can be a serious problem for the body, as it causes pain and damage to joints and joint tissues[vii], while also increasing your risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and bowel diseases[viii].

Scientific research shows that Buddha’s hand citron has anti-depressant, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-tumor, anti-aging, and blood pressure-lowering properties[ix].


Recipes for Buddha’s Hand Citron

Since there are so many great reasons to consume Buddha’s hand citron, it’s a good idea to be aware of some of the best ways to do so.



Dried and used in tea

o   Wash and cut the citron into slices and leave it to dry. It can then be used in tea or boiling water to drink.

o   This makes it easy to absorb the rich nutrition of the Buddha's hand fruit and consuming it in this way will relieve abdominal pains, loss of appetite, cough and other symptoms.


Pickled and eaten

o   The fruit can be pickled and either eaten directly, or it as a part of a fruit or candy dish.



Here is a wonderful recipe for Buddha’s Hand Marmalade with Honey. This recipe is perfect to serve on toast or baked goods.



Honey Buddha’s Hand Citron Marmalade

Makes: 6 cups


Ingredients:

4 cups            Buddha’s Hand Citron, small diced

1 cup              Granulated sugar

1 cup              Sugar

2 cups            Honey


Steps:

1. Add all Buddha’s Hand Citron, sugar and water. Simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour over low heat until sugar is thickened.

2. Let it cool and stir in honey.

3. Transfer to sterilized jars.



Stir-fried

o   Wash the Buddha's hand fruit, cut it into shreds, add hot oil and other seasonings to stir-fry and eat.

o   This process makes it soft enough that it can be eaten easily.


In porridge

o   Buddha hand fruit can also be used to cook porridge. Rice, rock sugar, and chopped Buddha’s hand citron are cooked together into a meal that is light, easy to digest, and can also nourish the body.



Who Should Not Consume Buddha’s Hand

While there are many reasons to eat Buddha’s hand citron, there are a few people who should avoid it.

First of all, it is not suitable for babies. Since the digestive function has not yet been fully developed in a baby, eating foods that are difficult to digest can cause problems and may even affect physical development.

Patients with a wind-heat cold should also avoid this fruit. If you have a high temperature, fever, and cough, eating Buddha's hand may aggravate your symptoms.

Finally, pregnant women should not eat Buddha’s hand fruit as it has the effect of relieving smooth muscle spasm. This may affect the uterine smooth muscle potentially cause issues.




References:

[i] “Can You Eat a Buddha's Hand or Is This Unique Citrus Just for Looks?” MarthaStewart.com https://www.marthastewart.com/1511028/buddhas-hand-citrus-demystifying. Retrieved February 9, 2024

[ii] “Buddha's Hand” Moon Valley Nurseries. https://www.moonvalleynurseries.com/buddha-s-hand Retrieved February 9, 2024

[iii] “What is a Buddha’s Hand?” Sweet Dash of Sass. https://sweetdashofsass.com/2013/11/sass-101-what-is-a-buddhas-hand/  Retrieved February 9, 2024

[iv] Smithsonian Magazine. “What the Heck Do I Do With a Buddha’s Hand?” https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/what-heck-do-i-do-buddhas-hand-citron-180949871/ Retrieved February 9, 2024

[v] “5 Things to Do With a Buddha’s Hand” The Kitchn https://www.thekitchn.com/5-things-to-do-with-a-buddhas-hand-196888 Retrieved February 9, 2024

[vi] “Fingered Citron Fruit (Buddha's Hand Fruit)” All Things Health. https://www.allthingshealth.com/en-us/glossary/fingered-citron-fruit/ Retrieved February 9, 2024

[vii] “Inflammation” Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/21660-inflammation Retrieved February 9, 2024

[viii] “Understanding acute and chronic inflammation” Harvard Health Publishing.  https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-acute-and-chronic-inflammation Retrieved February 9, 2024

[ix] “Health Benefits of Buddha’s Hand / Fingered Citron” Medindia. https://www.medindia.net/health/diet-and-nutrition/health-benefits-of-buddhas-hand.htm Retrieved February 9, 2024

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