Sandy’s Garden ... Yuzu fruit

Sandy Simpson
Sandy Simpson

It is said that you learn something new every day.

That may well be true, although I seem to have developed the ability to forget myriad things every day, so there would seem to be plenty of memory space becoming available for a single new item on a daily basis! Whatever, a single sentence caught my eye in my Sunday newspaper. “It’s all about yuzu fruit now – a grapefruit, lemon, mandarin superfood hybrid.” Yuzu fruit? Have I forgotten anything I ever knew about yuzu fruit, or have I really never heard of it/them before? This question wants to be answered.

“Beginning in the early 21st century,” I read on Wikipedia, “yuzu has been increasingly used by chefs in the United States and other Western nations, achieving notice in a 2003 article in The New York Times. The Finnish soft drink manufacturer Hartwall has a limited edition soda which contains yuzu. Yuzu has also been used in beer, in the Dutch beer called iKi and in Finnish cider called Golden Cap Black. BridgePort Brewing also used the fruit in its new summer beer, Summer Squeeze. The Swedish glögg manufacturer Blossa has a limited edition which contains yuzu and ginger. In Australia, a popular flavour of Mentos “3D” chewing gum is yuzu-grapefruit-orange.” I think that answers my question; I have assuredly not heard of yuzu fruit before: but it poses another … what is glögg?

And then I came across several articles by Eten Smallman which were published in the Daily Mail during October. “Is yuzu the new superfruit? Rare and costly citrus from Japan is predicted to be next big thing,” read one headline to a story which informed me that yuzu tastes like a mix of lemon, mandarin and grapefruit, is predicted to become as popular as oranges and is expected to hit supermarket shelves early next year. But what is it?

The yuzu looks like a rather small grapefruit … about the size of a tangerine orange … is golden-yellow in colour when ripe and comes originally from East Asia. It is thought to be a natural hybrid of the sour mandarin, Citrus reticulata, and another citrus fruit … itself a hybrid … called Citrus ichangensis and thus rejoices in the botanical name Citrus ichangensis × Citrus reticulata. The tree grows wild in central China and Tibet, was introduced into Japan and Korea during the Tang dynasty (618 – 907 AD) and is now very popular in these countries. The actual tree is one of the hardiest of all citrus varieties and can withstand temperatures as low as -12°C (10°F). It grows to a height of approximately four metres … say, thirteen feet in old money … has a rounded top of deep green, smooth, oval shaped leaves and carries attractive white flowers in early autumn. During the late autumn the fruits change from dark green to yellow as they ripen. The fragrant juice is used extensively in Japanese cuisine and the spicy rind is used for flavouring a refreshing drink, for making marmalade and in salad dressings. The rind … indeed, the entire fruit … can be added to a hot bath to build up resistance to winter colds and flu, to counter the pain of arthritis and rheumatism or just to add a delightful fragrance to a relaxing dip in the tub. And an essential oil, obtained by pressing the fruit, is used to stimulate the digestive system.

But I can save readers the trouble of dashing out to see whether the local supermarket has yuzu fruit on its shelves; it won’t, for November is not the season for them. And if … or when … yuzu fruit are marketed in central Scotland early in 2014, we can expect to pay at least £13.00 per kilo for them. And as for glögg, well I think I have learned enough for one day. I shall investigate glögg some other time.

Sandy Simpson, Polmont Horticultural Society