Article by: Hari Yellina
Diners used to enjoy yuzu cocktails at the Sööma restaurant in south-west Western Australia made from costly, imported Japanese juice. At least, they did until Deborah Sillaots, owner of the restaurant, learned that the farmers who owned the shop next door had 600 of their own yuzu trees. “The flavour is absolutely wonderful. Citrusy, but blended with mandarin, grapefruit, lemon, and “said Ms. Sillaots. Then we started using it as a dressing on some of our Japanese-inspired dishes. It makes a lovely cocktail.
Before her neighbours revealed that they were growing it on their farm east of Manjimup, a town with a thriving horticultural industry known for its apples and avocados, Ms. Sillaots was spending up to $100 for 750ml bottles of imported yuzu juice. After 600 trees were planted between 2020 and 2021, Paul Edwards produced his first crop of yuzu this past winter. He remarked, “It looks like a nasty kind of lemon.” But it separates and peels like a mandarin. After his son learnt about the fruit at agricultural school, he decided to plant yuzu. He currently has plans to increase the yuzu orchard in order to sell the fruit in addition to his sheep farm and commercial vegetable farm. He would then be one of just a few industrial yuzu growers in Australia. Mr. Edwards stated, “We’re working on getting it out there.”
“Down the road, there may be some gin and vodka infusions with olive oil. “It could be used in shampoos and soaps for cosmetic purposes. In Japan, it is renowned for that. Ms. Sillaots was happy to continue paying $100 per bottle to use yuzu in her drinks because she valued its “stronger, more savoury” citrus flavour. But now that a farmer has arrived at her door, she is preparing fresh meals and delicious dinner preparations. “I have fresh kingfish on the way. We’ll prepare a ceviche that is progressively macerated in yuzu,” she said. Compared to lemons, yuzu fruits are frequently smaller and yield far less juice. Just 750ml of juice is produced from a 20-litre pail of fruit, according to Ms. Sillaots.
Similar to how juice quality varies greatly, she believed the $100 bottles from Japan were worth the extra money over the less expensive juices found in some Australian liquor stores. She stated, “We use 15ml in a cocktail.” “Even that little bit gives it an amazing flavour. It’s stronger [than lemon] and, in my opinion, more flavorful. Paul Edwards claimed that so far, cultivating yuzu has not presented any difficulties, and he anticipates being highly competitive in the market when his trees develop. According to him, “Our climate is similar to Japan, with pleasant chilly winters and mild summers.” It is incredible what has been successfully grown in the area, according to Ms. Sillaots. In Manjimup, I believe you can grow anything, Ms. Sillaots added.