Spike your next cocktail or sauce with Australian-grown yuzu.
WHO Citrus grower David Arnold started propagating yuzu as a trial crop four years ago at his family's citrus orchard in Waikerie, in South Australia's Riverland region. Arnold chopped the tops off 40 Washington navel orange trees and grafted them with yuzu budwood. Now in their second season of commercial production, the trees are flourishing, and yuzu orders are accelerating from leading chefs around Australia.
WHAT Originating in east Asia, yuzu is believed to be a hybrid of sour mandarin and Ichang papeda, a slow-growing tropical lemon. The fruit has uneven skin, and a tart flavour that recalls grapefruit, but with mandarin overtones and a highly aromatic perfume. Rarely eaten as a fruit, yuzu's aromatic zest and juice are often used as seasoning, and it's an integral ingredient in the Japanese sauce ponzu.
WHY Arnold says his yuzu are grown in the perfect climate, making them more desirable among chefs. "They hang on the tree longer than in other places to reach optimal ripeness, giving more intense flavour and colour to the fruit." Chef Martin Benn is a particular fan of Arnold's fruit ahead of other imported yuzu, using it in dishes on his dégustation menu at Sepia in Sydney, such as chawanmushi, the savoury Japanese custard, with roasted katsuobushi butter and caviar, and for seared sea-urchin with smoked bone marrow and toasted milk bread. The chef has had yuzu in Japan and in Australia, and thinks the Australian fruit is as close to the Japanese variety you can get. "I haven't tasted or smelled better anywhere else in the world," says Benn. "As soon as you break the yuzu skin, you get a rush of the citrus perfume that is so intense it will make you salivate."
WHERE Adelaide-based wholesaler AMJ Produce Co distributes Arnold's yuzu.