Last Spring reader Ping Block from Belconnen emailed me for advice about moving her 20-year-old potted yuzu tree into the ground. I asked home orchardist Jost Stellar of Deakin and he thought it would thrive in the ground, particularly if planted in a north-facing protected spot.
Following reference to yuzu being for sale for the first time at a Canberra nursery (Kitchen Garden, April 14), Ping Block told me her story. She is Malaysian Chinese and came to Australia for her tertiary education and married an Australian and has two now adult children. Her love of nature led her to ikebana as she appreciates Japanese culture.
Ping's ikebana teacher, Mr Umemura from Sydney, has a yuzu tree in his garden and he brought yuzu to the ikebana class for them to do an arrangement using the fruit. Ping said it can take five years for a seedling yuzu tree to fruit, but hers, grown from seed, took 11 years to fruit and now she sends yuzu to her teacher each year. He uses it in cooking and also in a tea ceremony.
For autumn, Ping has used her yuzu fruit with the vibrant leaves from her tupelo tree (nyssa sylvatica).
Last year In Japan, Ping tasted warm yuzu fruit drink and she hopes to imitate this with her current crop. She travels to Japan every year for sogetsu ikebana activities and always makes a point of enjoying as many yuzu flavoured meals as possible. These are extremely popular with locals as well as overseas visitors.
Mountain Yuzu grows cold climate citrus at their orchard in north-east Victoria near Bright. Jane Casey from Mountain Yuzu says they are probably the biggest growers in Australia with 1800 trees which were planted in 2012. Yuzu grows well there but it doesn't like heat and during our past summer the trees overheated in January. Consequently the fruit is not the quality they would like, neither has it sized up as beautifully as in the 2018 season when they harvested three tonnes of fruit. In Canberra the trees should be shaded from the western sun.
However they are harvesting now and selling to restaurants, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne.
They also sell a lot of yuzu fruit to Canberra chefs via their Mountain Yuzu website. People can purchase the fruit from them online if there is sufficient quantity, and it is sold with 12 pieces of fruit in each pack. Their website has recipes for spicy prawns in yuzu kosho, yuzu sorbet and yuzu syrup cakes.
Casey said a man in Brisbane bought a box from them online last week and has instagrammed his oysters with yuzu, spatchcock and coral trout, yuzu mayonnaise, and honey infused with the peel. She says fresh yuzu rind is the most important part of the fruit which is full of seeds and, therefore, produces little juice. The rind is incredibly fragrant when zested.
Restaurants who were hit by the coronavirus and distilleries like Four Pillars have collaborated using green yuzu and gin people in South Australia have made a yuzu vermouth and it is being used by beer brewers.
The Gourmet Institute 2020 had planned a cooking event on July 22 with executive chef Dan Hong who has Vietnamese roots. He oversees the mod-Asian menus of Sydney's Mr Wong, Ms. G's, Queen Chow and Lotus and he planned to cook prawn toast with yuzu mayo and steamed fish with enoki, radish, mizuna and ginger nage.
Meanwhile, I am waiting for restaurants to reopen in Canberra when Ping Block has invited me to join her and her students for lunch at Raku and I can taste their yuzu sorbet.
Our Kitchen Garden column featuring eggplant (April 7) drew a keen response, for or against. Max Bourke of Campbell says he loves eggplants but the Italians love them even more where they are known The Queen of Vegetables. He saw a play in Fremantle, during his days at the Australia Council, where the members of the Fremantle Italian Ladies Choir, who acted like a Greek chorus to the play, stood behind the action on stage cooking melanzane and eggplants and singing throughout the action, then served the dish at the interval to the audience.
Bourke said his mother (who died at 99 years and nine months) used to include what she called Egg Plants as a 'fry-up' with eggs for breakfast or one of the many offals they used to eat. He says "utterly delicious".