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Citron—Buddha’s Hand: Kitchen Basics

Buddhas hand on white2

If you have seen the fingered citron–known as Buddha’s hand, you will have not forgotten. Hanging from the tree, it looks like a bright yellow, multi-tentacled octopus, and sitting on a tabletop it looks like–well, the hand of the Buddha, that is the bright yellow version.

Besides the Buddha’s hand, there is also a non-fingered citron that looks like a big lumpy lemon. Either way, this semi-tropical fruit which originated in northeastern India along with the lemon and lime, can grow big—to 1 foot (30 cm) in length.

The citron is almost all skin. The peel is extremely thick and it would take a very good squeeze to recover any juice. Nonetheless, citron juice was once considered something akin to lemonade. (In Italy it was called acquacedrata.)

If the juice is not the objective—as is usually the case, one citron will go a long way. Since the citron is almost all peel, the peel is usually sliced or grated and then candied. You can sprinkle candied citron on pasta or fish to add a hint of lemon to the flavor. Candied citron keeps for months and months.

How to choose Citron

Select fruit that is firm and unblemished. Avoid soft fruit. Fresh citron should have a strong citrus fragrance. In fact, you can use it to freshen a room simply by sitting it on the table.

How to serve Citron

Sprinkle candied citron peels over fish or pasta. Use candied citron as a confection to add zest to cakes and desserts. The flavor of citron has an affinity for almonds, chocolate, cinnamon, coriander, cream, grapefruit, hazelnut, honey, lemon, lime, pinenuts, and ricotta.

Citrus zest


Candied Citron Recipe

Author Steve Albert

Here’s how you can candy citron (and by the way, it works for other citrus as well).


  1. Grate moist citron peel to release the oil from the cells. Cut the peel into thin strips and place in a heavy pan: Use 2 cups of citron peel.
  2. Cover with 1½ cups (360 mL) of cold water. Bring slowly to a boil then simmer for 10 minutes or longer to dim the acidy taste.
  3. Drain and repeat this process 3 to 5 times, draining well each time.
  4. For each cup of peel, make syrup of ¼ cup (60 mL) of water and ½ cup (120 mL) of sugar.
  5. Add the peel and boil until the peel absorbs all of the syrup. The peel will become transparent.
  6. Roll the peel in powdered sugar and spread on a rack to dry.


When thoroughly dried, store in a tight container.

Courses Dessert

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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