California and citrus have a long-term marriage. In 1769, Father Junipero Serra planted the first citrus trees and today’s citrus orchards contribute more than $1billion to the California economy. You’re familiar with “citrus fruits” such as oranges, limes, lemons and grapefruit. Their thick rinds contain aromatic oils and inside the fruit are juicy sections joyfully consumed as juice, flavoring and eaten out of hand.
However, have you heard of citron? Its cultivation and hybridization created our modern day citrus. It has no juicy interior…it’s just rind…and that’s the good part! Eaten as a chewy morsel, it can be pickled, candied, glazed or used to make jam.
“Buddha’s Hands” is one of our favorite citrons because it is so unusual. Long finger-like segments develop as the fruit matures. Hanging on the tree, it makes an unusual sight as the “hands” can grow to 6 pounds!
It grows as a small tree or shrub to approximately 8′ tall long and has irregular branches covered in thorns. The light green leaves grow 4-6″ long with clusters of white flowers. Plant in a container on the deck or patio to enjoy the intoxicating fragrance of both the fruit and flowers and to harvest fruit as needed. In addition to the earlier described uses, this citron imparts its lemon flavor to liqueurs and specialty vodkas. This plant could definitely be the hit of your next party!