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The Buddha's hand citron is a type of citrus fruit which is distinguished from most other such fruits by its unusual and striking shape: rather than being spherical or ovoid like an orange or lemon, it looks like a bunch of bananas or chillis, or a human hand, with a group of 10 or 15 long yellow fingers branching out in a circular arrangement from the top.

The fingers are joined at the top, and each finger corresponds to one segment (or locule) of a more conventional citrus fruit. It is as though the segments of a lemon tried to escape and each lengthened, split out from the fruit at the bottom, and grew its own rind. The following diagram hopefully gives an idea of its unique form:

   _____||____           ___/_\___
  /           \         /  | |  | \
 /             \       |  |  |  |  |
|               |      |  |  |  |  |
|               |      |  |  |  |  |
|               |      /  |  |  \  \
|               |     |  /   /|  |  |
|               |     /  |   ||  |\  \_
 \             /     /  /|  / |  | \__/ 
  \___________/      | /  | |  \/  
                     |/   \/

     ORANGE            BUDDHA'S HAND

Its taxonomic name is Citrus medica var. sarcodactylus, in the family Rutaceae, order Sapindales. It is also sometimes known in English as the fingered citron.

Unlike oranges or grapefruits, they are not generally eaten fresh. Originating in China, they were either used to make candied peel or kept for religious ceremonies. They can also be grown as a novelty, providing evergreen foliage, a sweet scent and unique fruits. The fruit itself has a yellow rind (green when unripe) and contains no flesh, juice or seeds. The tree is small enough to grow in a pot (reaching up to 10 or 15 feet, or 3 to 5 metres) and has large leathery leaves and thorns.

In parts of China the fruit was commonly brought into homes for its perfume and as a good luck charm. It was considered lucky, because its resemblance to outstretched hands suggested the acquisition of wealth.


See also:

  • Doug. "Why are citrus fruits segmented?". Straight Dope. 27 June 2002. http://www.straightdope.com/mailbag/mcitrussegment.html (24 January 2003).
  • Hort Research. "Buddha's hand citron". 2002. http://www.hortresearch.co.nz/products/nzcbs/cultivars/bhcitron/ (24 January 2003).
  • Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Conservatory, University of Connecticut. "Citrus Medica var. Buddha's Hand". http://florawww.eeb.uconn.edu/acc_num/199200352.html (24 January 2003).
  • 9C9C.com. "Buddha's-Hand Citron". 2001. http://recom.9c9c.com/Local_Products/Jade/topic_37.html (24 January 2003).

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