I know I’ve probably said this before, in posts such as the ones for lychees (see November 15, 2013 post), and mangosteens (see March 27, 2014 post), but this time I really, really mean it—Buddha hands are the strangest looking fruit I’ve ever seen. The most common term for them is pretty apt: As someone who’s exhumed many graves, and seen many de-fleshed hands, take it from me, it’s a decent resemblance. I’ve also heard “Cthulhu fruit” as a nickname, and that’s fair too. Or, to continue our parade of similarities, it looks kind of like a lemon and an octopus had a baby. (Does this mental image challenge the internet’s Rule 34? Maybe.) Anyway, it’s roughly hand sized, of course, has a lemon-ish outer rind, and about 6-10 fingerlike tendrils coming off of it. Oh, one more comparison—it resembles one of the “facehugger” aliens from the movie series of the same name.
In a funny way, the “Cthulhu fruit” moniker is appropriate, too, as Buddha hands are a type of citron, which is one of the three original citrus fruits (Mandarin oranges and pummelos (see February 20, 2014 post) are the others). Every other citrus fruit is a hybrid of these O.G., parent fruits. Or “Old Ones,” as H.P. Lovecraft would have put it. They are believed to have originated in Asia, either
or India. As with many fruits, now they’re grown in
other places which have hot enough climates.
Evidently they’re not that common, though, at least here in the U.S., because
they’re very expensive. They go for as
much as $24 a pound, and the regular sized one I bought was $10.
As for what people do with them, eating them is rather low on the list. They’re prized as ornamentals, for both their tree and the fruit themselves. But their most valued attribute is their odor—they’re used as religious offerings (“closed” fingered, more immature ones are considered best, as they’re mimicking praying hands), in perfumes, to freshen laundry, or to simply give a room a nice smell. Because here’s the thing—they don’t really have pulp: Under the outer rind is basically just inner rind, like the yellowish-white coating on an orange’s pulp. Therefore, to consume them people usually use them as twists for drinks, or made into jams, or candied, or juiced and drizzled over salads.
As even semi-regular readers know, I’m adverse to cooking foods, or even doing much preparation. I checked out some of the complicated recipes for candying them, or jamming them (is that a proper verb usage? It is now), and just laughed. I didn’t feel the yearn to use the stove top, or, as I like to call it, the “little room underneath the burners” (i.e. the “oven”). Instead I tried some of the quasi-pulp (inner rind) plain, and then attempted to make “Buddha hand-ade” by putting chopped up ones in water for a couple of days, and adding sugar.
The results were awful. I couldn’t even swallow the inner rind, and the drink was weak and barely had a taste, even with sugar. Maybe the jams and candied varieties are decent, but I have to admit I’m not optimistic. I can’t recommend these as food.
However, this may be a unique case where I nonetheless recommend buying them anyway. The odor, which is activated by cutting into them, is as pleasant as advertised. But, mainly, I think they’re fun for pranks. In my household, we pretended the Buddha hand was conscious, and evil, and told jokes in that vein, and put notes in its “fingers” that “it” wrote. Or, it would probably freak people out if you substituted one for a lemon overnight. They might think, “Did my lemon get syphilis or something?” They’d probably make for effective Halloween decorations, too. Yes, they’re definitely overpriced, but if you get some friends to chip in, maybe, I still think they could be worth it. Just think twice (or three times) about eating them.
(Oh, and finally, I don’t get the sense that the name is considered insulting to those who are Buddhists. But if so, I apologize. My intent was to try a new fruit, and write an entertaining post about it, and not to mock anyone’s spiritual beliefs.)