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Buddha's Hand makes for fragrant curiosity

Thursday, December 18, 2003

By Marlene Parrish, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"Whoa, what the heck is that thing?"

That's the most common response at spying a canary-yellow Buddha's Hand. One of the oddities of the citrus family now in the supermarkets, it is also called Fingered Citron.

Buddha's Hand, supposedly one of the most ancient citrus known, is now waving from local produce departments. That's a lemon at right.(Pam Panchak, Post-Gazette)

The unusually shaped Citrus medica is named for its long, gnarly protuberances, which can vary from five to 20 or more.

Or perhaps religious wags may have named it for its reputed resemblance to the outreached fingers of a prayerful, and probably quite arthritic, Buddha.

The hand is supposed to be one of the most ancient citrus known to man, originating in India thousands of years ago. It is cultivated for its fragrant rind, which is used to flavor dishes, is candied or is turned into marmalade.

The hand has been used in China and Japan for perfuming rooms and clothing and has been used as an ornament, as well as in religious ceremonies.

You will spend about $8.99 each at Whole Foods and large supermarkets. It will keep for about two weeks at room temperature. The flesh is not juicy, and what scant pulp there is offers serious pucker power from the industrial-strength acidity.

You don't really want to cook with this thing. Use it as a centerpiece to perfume a room, astound the mailman or scare small animals and children.

Marlene Parrish can be reached at or 412-481-1620.

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