No, this isn’t an oddly shaped lemon. If you haven’t yet caught yuzu fever, you will soon—this tart trend is going gangbusters across all sectors of the food and beverage industry. While Yuzu has previously been imported from Japan, we’re lucky enough to now have Jane and Brian Casey growing them right here in Victoria at their farm, Mountain Yuzu. We caught up with them to ask all of the questions about this hot produce.
Tell us about Mountain Yuzu:
Mountain Yuzu is located on the foothills of the Australian Alps in north-east Victoria. Our 20-acre property is located on the Ovens River close to Mt Buffalo in the Upper Ovens Valley with spectacular views of the snow-capped Australian Alps nearby.
Our first 20 trees were planted in 2012 and we now have 1,300 trees from six to ten years of age. In 2014 we picked our first few Yuzu fruits and in 2016 our first commercial harvest was undertaken yielding some 300 kgs of high-quality cool climate Yuzu.
Although Yuzu is our passion, we also have small plantings of another Japanese citrus called Sudachi as well as the speciality Italian culinary citrus Bergamot and Chinotto.
For the uninitiated, what is yuzu?
Yuzu is a super fragrant citrus that is just amazing. It is shaped like a large mandarin and has a distinctive ‘button’. When ripe is bright yellow in colour. It is used just like a lemon and has flavourful tart juice but it is the zest of fresh yuzu that really showcases the fruit’s full aroma. Yuzu is an important part of Japanese cuisine and culture and apart from its culinary uses; fresh yuzu is traditionally popped into winter baths in Japan. Its aromatic properties are said to improve mood and the oils released into the warm water soften the skin.
What does it taste like?
Its flavour is unique and hard to describe but lands somewhere between a mandarin, lime and grapefruit.
What growing conditions does it require?
Growing our fruit in the cool climate Alpine valleys of north-east Victoria, we have far fewer problems with pests and diseases that can impact citrus grown in some of the warmer and humid citrus growing regions around Australia.
This pristine environment with deep rich volcanic soils, is perfect for growing full flavoured yuzu. With ample average natural rainfall of around 1,200 mm per year, plus high differentials between day and night temperature this really is the ideal place to grow such a wonderful fruit.
Although we are not certified organic, we do follow organic production principles closely with only minimal use of chemical fertilisers when deemed necessary for optimum tree health. No harsh pesticides and fungicides are used in our orchards.
When is it harvested?
Harvest starts in late April. All our trees are now bearing lots of yuzu and we are expecting our biggest ever crop, so for us 2022 will be the year of the yuzu.
How much fruit do you produce?
We are expecting our largest ever harvest this year, somewhere around 10-15 tonne.
What do you think is the reason for the recent boom in yuzu’s popularity?
It just tastes delicious and once you’ve tried it, you’re hooked. Yuzu has so many different applications, food, drinks, condiments, cosmetics and more.
Where does your fruit go, mostly (local, interstate, international….)?
The fruit goes to a variety of customers, gin and beer makers, yuzu agrumato, providores, direct to restaurants, specialty grocers, online and farm-gate sales. We would like to export in the future but at the moment we only have enough fruit for the local market.
What are the best ways to use/eat yuzu?
With fresh yuzu, it’s all about the zest so just zesting some over any kind of fish or onto freshly steamed rice or in fact, just about anything adds a flavour bomb that really packs a punch. The juice takes a salad dressing up a notch too and adding a slice of fresh yuzu to a gin and tonic turns it instantly into something special. Yuzu makes delicious curd and if we have tour groups visit, I usually make yuzu marshmallows for them to try. It’s a great way to showcase the flavour. Yuzu is wonderful in a Japanese style soufflé cheesecake (I serve mine with yuzu cream made by simply adding some yuzu syrup to cream and whipping it up) and it pairs beautifully with raspberries. Chocolate coated (either dark or white) candied yuzu peel is sublime. Really, there are just too many ways to experience the great flavour of yuzu, it’s unlimited.