The close-fingered varieties of this fruit, which resemble hands praying, have been offered at Buddhist temples.
A Buddha's Hand looks like a lumpy lemon with fingers and has a smell that’s characteristic of citrus fruit. It is believed that Buddhist monks brought the fruit from India to China, where it’s grown in many varieties. ‘Buddha's hand’ is a translation of the names used for the fruit in Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese. The close-fingered varieties of this fruit, which resemble hands praying, have been offered at Buddhist temples. It signifies longevity, happiness and good fortune. The Chinese often display it in their homes and temple altars for good luck. In Japan, Buddha's Hand is a popular New Year's gift meant to bring good fortune to the recipient.
Buddha’s Hand is sold as a decoration, and for its medicinal value and flavour-enhancing properties. The insides of the fruit are bitter, but its zest can add an interesting flavour to food. The peel can also be candied. Most varieties of the fruit don’t have any edible pulp.
To use the fruit, start by breaking off a "finger", and grate or peel the lemony exterior. Make sure to use only the brightly coloured part, leaving out the white pith beneath.
Buddha’s Hand was cultivated in California only in the late '80s. In 2008, there were 25 acres dedicated to commercially growing the fruit. It reached other parts of the world in the late 20th century. Chefs use oil from the aromatic rind to create scented sugars while bartenders and mixologists infuse spirits with it. Bakers candy the peel to add life to cakes, and other creative types use it for potpourri, owing to its lavender fragrance.
Use Buddha’s Hand in cocktails (it infuses well in gin and vodka), use the zest in salads or candy it and make marmalade. It can be found at Asian supermarkets and specialty food stores.