The bushukan fruit comes under many names, such as Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis, fingered citron, Buddha’s Hand, etc. and it’s one of the weirdest-looking exotic fruits you’ll ever find. It’s the kind of item you stop next to in the store to get a good look at it. The fruit looks like a lumpy lemon with fingers and has a very nice smell. In this post, we’ll tell you everything you should know about this exotic fruit.
Let’s start from the beginning…
What Is Bushukan?
Bushukan is an unusually-shaped fruit that’s segmented into finger-like sections. The fruit is a part of the citron family and can be found in Japan, China, and parts of Northeastern India. The original name of this fruit in Chinese (佛手柑) and Japanese (仏手柑) translates to Buddha’s Hand which is how the bushukan fruit got its most popular nickname. If you look at some of Buddha’s statues closely, you can even see the resemblance.
In different regions, you can find different variations of this fruit, with the two basic ones being the open-hand shape and the closed-hand shape. Like any other citron variety, the bushukan fruit grows on small trees with long, irregular branches. Its leaves are large (4-6 inches long) and pale green in color with white flowers that grow in fragrant clusters.
The “fingers” consist of the white part of the flowers and a small amount of acidic pulp but most of them are juiceless and some don’t even have any seeds. The plant is very sensitive to frost and intense drought or heat. That’s why the most suitable climate for growing a bushukan tree is the temperate climate. Some of the most common diseases typical for the bushukan tree include Sarco-leiossis (systematic loss) and Citric arthritis.
Just like most citrus fruits, the origin of the Buddha’s hand fruit are traced back to East Asia and parts of South Asia. According to numerous historical sources, the first time this fruit was exported outside of Asia was around 300 AD when the plant made its way to Rome. This research by the University of California claims that at the time, the price was fixed by the Roman emperor and the fruit was selling for a price 15 times higher than the price of melons.
Unlike most other citrus fruits, the bushukan fruit contains no pulp or juice and its pith is not bitter. This means that the whole fruit is edible. Today, farmers in East Asia distinguish between six different varieties of this fruit which shows that the fruit is thriving despite its weird shape. The main reason for this, however, is its fragrance, not its taste (but at least it’s not as sour as the araza fruit) which brings us to the next point…
How To Use Bushukan Fruit?
In addition to eating the fruit raw, there are a handful of other ways in which you can use this fruit. Here are some of the most popular ones.
In a lot of Asian countries, you’ll find companies that use the fruit’s fragrance as a basic ingredient for making perfumes and room fresheners.
The Buddha’s hand fruit is also used in medicine. In most Asian countries, consuming the fruit raw is prescribed as a natural tonic.
The unripe “closed hand” of this fruit is often given as a form of offering in Buddhist temples because for most pilgrims, it symbolizes a prayer. Additionally, in some places in China, giving a Buddha’s hand fruit is often given as a gift that symbolizes happiness and longevity.
As we said, the fruit has very little juice and pulp so it’s not best for eating but its zest can be used to flavor a lot of dishes or desserts. Personally, we love the candied version of this fruit, its zest is great for dressing winter salads, and we’ve even seen some people making marmalade (mixed with honey) out of it.
Yes, you can use the bushukan fruit in drinks too. Personally, I love adding some zest to my cocktails; it goes really nice with vodka, gin, white rum, and other colorless hard liquors. If you like hard drinks, try cutting pieces of the fruit and leaving them inside a bottle or a jar for 2-3 weeks. You’ll thank me later.
It might sound funny at first, but because of its divine smell, the Buddha’s Hand fruit is a great choice for doing laundry. Arguably even better than potpourri. Multiple historical sources claim that people in Ancient China used to use this fruit to clean their clothes and make them smell good. If they could do it, why couldn’t we?
Because of its unique shape, the Buddha’s hand fruit is a great decoration for gardens, terraces, and patios.
Is Bushukan A Seasonal Fruit?
Similar to most citrus fruits, the Buddha’s hand fruit requires a warm temperature but it could thrive at a temperate temperature as well. As a rule of thumb, wherever lemons, grapefruits, and oranges can grow, so can the bushukan. Based on this, we can conclude that, yes, bushukan is a seasonal fruit. It ripens around late autumn or early winter. It’s harvested throughout the winter and is available throughout the spring at most local farmer markets.
How to Choose Ripe Bushukan Fruit?
Finally, this guide to the bushukan fruit wouldn’t be complete without telling you how to choose ripe fruit. As a rule of thumb, you’d want to choose the fruits with the firmest, brightest peels and the strongest floral scent. Any fruit with soft spots, opaque peel, or loose fingers is probably not good.
Also, if the fruit has “open fingers”, make sure that the fingers are separated from each other and curl away; this is what happens when the fruit is ripe.
Did you ever hear of the bushukan fruit? What do you think about it? Would you ever try it? Let us know in the comments!
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