The Yuzu is a citrus, although quite different to citrus that we are used to here in New Zealand. Looking a bit like a large bumpy mandarin they are anything but.
Originally from Japan, the yuzu is a hybrid between the Satsuma mandarin and the Ichang papeda, a slow-growing wild citrus.
With little flesh to speak of, the yuzu is prized for its aromatic flavoursome rind and juice.
If you had to describe it you would probably say it is most like a cross between a mandarin, grapefruit and lemon.
In Japan the fruit is used to flavour many dishes including the famous ponzu sauce, its uses are both sweet and savoury.
Way back in time the yuzu was originally from the Yangtze River region of China but was brought to Japan hundreds of years ago where it was prized for not only culinary uses but also medicinal and for bathing. Being a winter fruit, a yuzu bath is traditionally taken on the solstice day, seemingly as a preventative for warding off ills and chills. Hot yuzu and honey drinks are known to alleviate cold, aches and flu symptoms.
In places such as the island of Shikoku, locals and tourists flock to have a hot bath containing yuzu skin. Much more than medicinal this thought to also increase good fortune.
Here in the Western world, yuzu is prized for its culinary attributes.
The fragrant citrus is wonderful when paired with rich fish dishes such as salmon, try sprinkling yuzu zest over the fish. Zest is also delicious sprinkled over many meat dishes, noodles, salads and soups. It is often added to mayonnaise and aioli, once again adding fragrance as well as flavour.
My first play with yuzu was to make a delicious yuzu curd with both the juice and the zest.
In terms of growing, yuzu is more cold hardy than most citrus and according to NZ Yuzu grower Neville Chun, it is not necessarily the ideal plant for the home gardener. Chun’s commercial crop is in the Horowhenua.
Yuzu has a tendency to grow prolifically (around 3.5m high) and its extremely sharp 4cm long thorns are a hazard for anyone trying to pick fruit or prune. The tree has glossy green leaves and flowers in summer. Fruit is usually harvested from mid May through until July.
For more information connect with Neville Chun https://nzyuzu.com
Orchard image credits to Neville Chun