Yuzu is a Japanese citrus is incorporated into local cuisine, used in formulating medications and as a component of fragrances. Yuzu, unlike other citruses which are eaten in whole, yuzu adds flavor and scent in dishes. It's palm-sized. Yuzu has a thick peel that’s lumpy.
A distinct fresh scent is characteristic of Yuzu. Even though both the peel and the juice are contain fragrance and flavor, it is the peel that contains higher levels of the aromatic constituents.
In recent years perfumers have used its peculiar scent to create fragrances. Yuzu is said to have originally been from China but currently, Yuzu is cultivated in Korea, Spain, America, Australia, France, and Italy. Yuzu from Japan is known to be the best, having been grown in the mountainous areas where there is a large difference in temperature during the day and night, which enhances it's aroma.
The origin of Yuzu
A hybrid of primitive citrus and sour mandarin orange, the Yuzu has its origin from the Yangtze River in China. It is said to have been cultivated by accident during cross-pollination of the two mother plants. Yuzu grows wild in China and Tibet. It arrived in Japan via the Korean Peninsula sometime prior to the Nara (1300 years ago). It was grown and used in Japanese medicine.
Once it was introduced to Japan and China and Korea during the Fang dynasty they took it over. At this time the Japanese people started using it for hot bath bathing and culinary purposes. Traditionally a hot Yuzu bath was taken during the winter solstice day. It started when public baths began to grow in Japan, during the Edo period. As the substance from Yuzu mixed with the bathwater promoted blood circulation, the yuzu bath became popular and had public acceptance. It was believed to ward off winter colds and flu and cause the healing of chapped skin. The Japanese then came to recognize the benefits which resulted in the aphorism “having a Yuzu bath in the winter solstice to prevent cold.”. After gaining this popularity it started being grown elsewhere in Spain, Australia, France, Italy and most recently in the USA.
In recent years the fragrance industry has noticed Yuzu. Although other citrus fruits have been used in fragrances Yuzu has been noted to prolong the life of citrus notes as its freshness lasts longer. This is believed to be because the fragrance is extracted from the peel of the fruit.
Cultivation of Yuzu
Yuzu trees are slow-growing and it takes the about 20 years to grow seeds, using the misho growing method. This is majorly done in native regions. It requires delicate care by the farmers to ensure the fruits are optimal in taste and scent. The branches of the yuzu tree are covered with extremely sharp thorns. These thorns often damage the fruit, especially during heavy wind seasons. This has contributed to the idea that yuzu is difficult and requires high maintenance. However, in most cases, yuzu is grafted unto a trifoliate orange tree so that it bears fruits in a short while, usually in a couple of years. Yuzu Is an evergreen shrub or small tree growing 22-36 feet tall. There are three main climates suitable for the commercial production of yuzu: tropical climates are subtropical with winter rain as in the Mediterranean and semitropical with summer rainfall. Yuzu grows well in typical citrus growing conditions with free-draining organically enriched soil, full sun and shelter from the wind. Young trees are kept weed-free and grass-free and from rodents that enjoy the taste of Yuzu.
Yuzu trees are pruned in a vase shape to minimize risks of reaching deep into the tree to pick the soft and easily damaged fruit. For picking one needs to wear long sleeves and long leather gloves.
There are three comparable types of citrus to Yuzu. They are Kaboso, Sudachi and Okinawa. They look similar but differ in flavor:
- Sudachi; This is similar to lime and is used mainly to add an ascent of dishes.
- Kaboso; Is bigger in size and the sourness is similar to Sudachi.
- Okinawa; Is addictive and has its unique flavor tastes like sweet lime with orange and unlike Yuzu. It is used in drink mixes.
Uses of Yuzu
Yuzu is used in many ways but is most commonly used in the culinary world.
In the food industry;
- It’s used to make sauces and is the key ingredient to the famous Ponzu sauce.
- It’s used to make beverages such as juice and cocktails.
- Famous in cooking fish dishes and used well as a garnish.
- Essential Oil is extracted from the peels. Yuzu essential oils are used in making lotions and soaps.
- Yuzu is used in a hot water bath by being squeezed into the water. The aim is to promote blood circulation and prevent colds and also aids with chapped skin.
Medicinal uses; Yuzu is rich in Sodium, Magnesium, manganese, and most importantly vitamin C. Potential health benefits include, reduced risk of gout, improved blood flow. Essential oils are great stress relievers. Increased immunity is great in disease prevention.
Uses in fragrance
Citrus has been used in perfumes for a while now. Yuzu has started being used in the composition of scents. The scents come from the peel of the fruit extracted as an essential oil. Other citrus notes seem to fade fast but Yuzu flavors tend to linger and it’s gained notice for this trait. Yuzu is used together with other citrus notes. Yuzu is notably less pungent. It has been used to make scented candles and essential oil diffusers.
Fun Facts about Yuzu.
- These are several theories about the origin of the name ‘Yuzu’ but the most famous one explains ‘yu’ (as read in Japanese) is a Chinese word for Yuzu and that “su (Zu)" means vinegar, for which Yuzu was often substituted with, leading to the term Yuzu.
- The Yuzu is an important cold-resistant rootstock for other citruses.
- A Yuzu tree only produces 33-44lbs of fruit, and only 3 liters of juice can be extracted.
- A sweet variety of Yuzu called Yuko became severely endangered during the 1970s and 1980s. It's only available in Japan where it is native to the Doinokubi and Sotome regions of Nagasaki.
Yuzu is just starting. It is underused because it has been overshadowed by other citrus and has been heavily packaged and marketed to suit the cuisine world. It’s starting to gain popularity so fast that it’s even being accepted as a household plant.
Yuzu has come to revolutionize the world of aromas and it is an obvious change-maker in the world of citrus.