Australian yuzu growers make 50 times citrus prices with ‘ugly’ fruit from Asia

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(Landline) Landline

By Prue Adams

Updated

July 12, 2018 06:47:21

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Mr Arnold says that yuzu are worth the labour during harvest when you consider the financial return.
(ABC Rural: Tom Nancarrow)
When asked how he’d describe the fruit, David Arnold said, “um, ugly”.While resembling a lemon on the outside, inside it is full of seeds and often has patches of brown on the flesh.”It pays well enough to cover the work involved to actually harvest it,” Mr Arnold said.At Chillingham in the Tweed Valley of northern New South Wales, “Buck” Buchanan was the first in Australia to start growing yuzu commercially.In the 1990s he was hosting a number of tour buses, of mainly Japanese tourists, who visited his 400-acre bush tucker and exotic fruit property. Photo:
The flagrant yuzu flavour is a hit with chefs, but the pickers have to be careful. Photo:
Bathing in a yuzu hot bath is a winter solstice custom amongst many Japanese people. Photo:
“The first couple you’ll take off you’ll just sit and smell because they’re just the most delightful smell — they’re so highly perfumed” Ms Abbot said. (Landline: Pip Courtney)
“A lot of the older Japanese women told me to start growing yuzu so I started looking into the fruit, and that’s how I got started,” Mr Buchanan said.He has approximately 500 trees and supplies markets in Sydney and Brisbane and directly to restaurants, especially Japanese restaurants on the Gold Coast.”We don’t advertise, it is kind of word of mouth but the orders just keep rolling in,” Mr Buchanan said.The fruit’s aroma and the oil in the skin of yuzu has meant, in Japan, it is manufactured into body products, and Buck Buchanan has his own line of shampoos and lotions. It’s the odd lemon-like fruit which is prickly to pick and has a flavour difficult to describe, but yuzu is highly prized, particularly in Japanese cuisine. Photo:
Buck’s Farm is host to a number of crops, including finger limes, neem, native davidson plums and yuzu. (Landline)
Sydney chef Martin Benn, buys about 100kg of yuzu every winter and adds it to savoury and sweet dishes at his Japanese-inspired restaurant, Sepia.”Yuzu is like a mythical magical fruit,” Mr Benn said.”It is one of those fruits that is not about the actual tasting or eating of the fruit, it is about the aroma and that’s what you fall in love with,” Mr Benn said.The award-winning chef would like to be able to access the fruit year round but makes gels, mousses and preserves from the fresh fruit, so his customers can enjoy the flavour in the off-season.”It’s that magical smell that people think is amazing — it’s almost like a comfort food,” he said.Learn more about Yuzu on Landline this Sunday at 12:30pm. (Landline: Pip Courtney)
With yuzu requiring chilly overnight temperatures to ripen, the largest producer is based near Bright in the Victorian Alps.Mountain Yuzu started planting yuzu trees in 2012 and in the season just finished harvested about 4 tonnes of fruit from the 20-acre property.Owners Brian and Jane Casey were chestnut growers but lost all their trees to disease in 2010, so turned their attention to yuzu.To avoid being pricked by the 10cm long thorns on the trees, the Caseys use secateurs attached to the end of a pole.Jane Casey describes the fruit as “tricky to grow” and that there is a very short time between the fruit ripening, and it being over-ripe and losing the aroma for which it is most valued. (Landline)
They grafted yuzu onto orange-tree rootstock and have been harvesting a crop for the past two years.The season started in mid-May and was finished by the end of the month, and the Arnold family’s 26 trees produce about 700 kilograms of fruit, which has been snapped up by high-end chefs. Photo:
Protective gear is important when there are thorns up to seven centimetres long. Photo:
“… We serve it (yuzu) as a dashi (Japanese stock), the aroma goes through the whole room and peoples’ eyes light up,” Mr Benn said. (Landline)
When prices for oranges and other mainstream citrus tanked in the years leading up to 2012, the second-generation fruit-growing family looked to further diversify.Adelaide-based fruit and vegetable wholesaler Margy Abbot suggested the Arnolds put in some yuzu. Yuzu (Citrus junos) Looks like lemon but tastes like mandarin orange and grapefruitGrown on small trees with long thorns
While most citrus fetches prices less than $500 a tonne, yuzu growers are getting as much as $25,000 a tonne, or $25 per kilogram, at the farm gate.Shaun Arnold wears heavy-duty welding gloves to pluck the small yellow fruit off his thorny yuzu trees at Waikerie in the Riverland.”We’re the only silly buggers that’ll pick ’em,” South Australian grower Shaun Arnold said.The Arnold family is one of only three known commercial yuzu growers in Australia.
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Ugly citrus in hot demand with Aussie chefs