JOURNAL / JAPAN etc.(English)

JAPAN [Kochi]

Japanese Ingredients for the World’s Top Kitchens #12

Meeting Off-Season Demand


text by Michiko Watanabe / photographs by Daisuke Nakajima / English text by Susan Rogers Chikuba

Though the times are always changing, there are certain timeless ingredients from Japan that will never go out of style. Yukio Hattori, president of Hattori Nutrition College in Tokyo, introduces unique labors of love—items grown and produced with care and integrity by hardworking suppliers across the country.

Yuzu citrons grown in the field are harvested from late July through early December; supplies typically last through March. Their peak market time is November, when the fruit are yellow. In Kochi prefecture, Japan’s largest yuzu producer, Tsugio Betchaku is working with other growers to establish a hothouse supply from spring to summer. He tends 100 trees that produce small, 50-gram fruit that are 5 to 6 centimeters in size.

“Green yuzu are essentially baby yuzu,” Betchaku says. “The yield—just three to four fruit per branch—is much lower than that of sudachi or kabosu. But the fragrance is special: it’s floral like yellow yuzu but tart, with a refreshing uplift.” There’s not much demand for green yuzu in home cooking now, but high-end sushi bars and restaurants seek out its unique fragrance. “If you see it, please give it a try,” he smiles.

When we visited in March, the greenhouse was as warm and wet as rainy season. 

(photo left) The earliest blooms appear in late January; the fruit are harvested from April. 
(photo right) Large thorns must be heeded when tending the trees. 

(photo left) Although yuzu skin is thick, it discolors easily if jostled so the fruit are handled like fragile goods. 
(photo right) The fragrant rinds are prized for the grace notes they bring to broth or even a cup of sake. 

A chimney helps keep optimum heat and humidity levels in the greenhouse. 

Tsugio Betchaku is one of a group of 11 growers working to establish a steady supply of green yuzu.

◎JA Kochi
1307 Kagami-cho Yamakita, Konan-shi, Kochi

(The Cuisine Magazine /June 2019 )