Today’s the day for the weird, the wonderful and the downright scary, so we thought you’d like to take a look at this wonderfully misshapen curiosity which we came across in an elegant Sicilian vegetable garden this month.
A serious contender for Ugliest Fruit of the Year 2016, its knarly, pitted, pock-marked appearance and lumpy fist of half-formed fingers make it look like a grisly prop from a Halloween gala night.
Going by the name of Buddha’s Hand, this citrus misfit originates from the Far East where it is a precious symbol of happiness, wealth and long life, but as we discovered, this fascinating fruit grows quite happily in the sun-warmed soils and mild year-round climate of Sicily too. When it comes to your 5-a-day, it’s clearly not the most appetising of propositions: you can’t juice it or eat it as there’s little or no pulp inside anyway, but use the rind in sweet and savoury dishes, try it in vinaigrettes or infused in alcohol for a zesty cocktail and its beauty starts to shine.
Also grown as an ornamental fruit – if your style tends toward to Addams Family gothic – its eerie exterior hides one last shocker: an exquisitely lavender-lemony perfume which the Chinese have used to fragrance their houses, clothing and even themselves down through the centuries, and still do. Who would have thought it? So if you’re lucky enough to spot one of these ghastly-looking natural monstrosities, just think twice about what lies beneath…