The Buddha’s Hand is the ancestor of the lemon. We’re talkin’ citrus fruit here, not the Himalayan sage, Siddhārtha Gautama, although this fruit may be given as a religious offering in Buddhist temples.
According to an online article, Buddha prefers the “fingers” of the fruit to be in a position where they resemble a closed rather than open hand, as closed hands symbolize the act of prayer.
The Buddha’s hand is cultivated as an ornamental tree in gardens and in containers on patios and terraces. It is sensitive to frost, as well as intense heat and drought, and grows best in temperate conditions. The coast of Southern California as well as inland valleys (Ojai included) are considered ideal for its planting.
Buddha’s hand fruit is very fragrant and is used predominantly in China and Japan for perfuming rooms and personal items such as clothing. As far as cooking goes, you can’t juice it like a lemon but you can use the peel to flavor just about any recipe that calls for lemon “zest”. It is commercially used to flavor liqueurs.
Here’s a generic recipe for making the Italian liqueur, Limoncello, using Buddha’s hand citrus. Let me know how you like it!
1 large Buddha’s hand
1 bottle vodka (750ml – I use Grey Goose)
2½ cups sugar
3½ cups water
Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from the fingers from the hand. You should have long strips. Using a small sharp knife, trim away the white pith from the long strips and discard the pith.
Place the peels in a 2-quart pitcher. Pour the vodka over the peels and cover with plastic wrap. Allow the peels to steep in the vodka for 4 days at room temperature.
After 4 days, stir the water and sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Cool completely. Pour this sugar syrup over the vodka mixture. Cover and let stand at room temperature overnight.
Strain the Limoncello through a mesh strainer. Transfer the clear Limoncello to bottles. Seal the bottles and refrigerate over night before opening.