Every week we get Down & Dirty, in which we break down our favorite unique seasonal fruits, vegetables, and more.
Today: A fragrant fruit with funky, flailing fingers. Say that five times fast, and then read on.
If you're in need of a host or hostess gift in the next few days, consider searching out a Buddha's Hand citron at a specialty grocery store. Buddha's Hand citron is considered a symbol of good fortune, so it is a popular New Year's gift in China and Japan. In Japan, they're sometimes placed in a home's special raised alcove (called a tokonoma) in lieu of flowers, and in both China and Japan, they're placed as offerings at temples. In China, they also symbolize happiness, wealth, and longevity -- plus they act as a natural air freshener. So even if your fruit's recipient doesn't have a particularly fortunate start to their new year, they will definitely have a pleasantly-scented house.
Buddha's Hand citron is, as its name suggests, a type of citron, making it a citrus fruit like oranges, grapefruit, and lemons. In fact, citron is one of only three or four original types of citrus fruits, and that means that most of the wide variety of citrus we eat are actually almost all hybrids.
Look for firm, bright yellow, unblemished fruits that are really aromatic, and then store them either at room temperature to enjoy their fragrance, or in the refrigerator if you want them to last longer.
Buddha's Hand citrons are made up entirely of pith (1, far above) and peel (2, far above), but just because there's no pulp or juice to be had (in most varieties of them, anyway) doesn't mean you can't do anything edible with them. Our friends at Frieda's use them to make a vinaigrette, I've used them to make citrus salt, and here are five of the community's favorite ways to use Buddha's Hands:
Tell us: How do you like to use Buddha's Hand citron?
Photos by James Ransom