Written by Samuel Phineas Upham
Citron is a form of citrus that is capable of flowering and developing fruit during any season. Though it is more sensitive to frost than other forms of citrus, which limits where citron can be grown. The origins of this plant are still a mystery lost to history, but we believe that the source could be either India or Arabia.
Citron is reported to be one of the earliest fruits to appear in the Mediterranean, but this could stem from misconceptions. Citron was poorly defined in those days, as were many foods of the time, so it’s possible that writings mentioning citron are referring to some other plant.
The citron has earned the nickname “Buddha’s hand” because of its role in both Hinduism and Buddhism. Citron is very clearly depicted in no less than three scenes from the lives of Buddha. The Vedic god Kuvera, an earth spirit who was later adopted by Buddhists, is always depicted as gold in color and holding onto a citron fruit.
In China, the fruit was highly valued. Writings from the medieval period talk about ten jars of citron fruit offered to the emperor of China from the west. These fruits were also thought to have been brought to China through the movement of Buddhist monks, which might help to explain the origins of the nickname.
Citron was often carried on a person or placed at a table to leave pleasant scents in the room, similar to modern-day perfume. The rind is the most nutritious part of the fruit, but it is rarely eaten.