Friday, 27 May 2016

In Season: YUZU!

Photo: Edsel Little

There’s been a lot of buzz about Yuzu recently. The exotic flavour of this tiny Japanese citrus fruit supposedly adds a welcome and potent zing to everything from dressing to desserts. Yuzu is a healthy, delicious and unique fruit that provides a surprising burst of complex freshness. 

But unless you have a Yuzu tree in the back yard, finding fresh Yuzu fruit can be a difficult task. So about 3 years ago i brought a tree from my local garden centre to see what all the fuss was about. And it is only now that i have finally been able to taste the elusive YUZU! Just tonight i tried my first Yuzu and was thinking how shall i try it? So my first idea was a Yuzu Lemonade so using my lime squeezer i juiced it into a glass with 2 tsp of Caster Sugar and some water. Very little juice can be extracted from the fruit, since it has a thick rind and large seeds relative to its size, but the juice that is available has a concentrated flavor, and juicing it this way releases the fruit’s aromatic oils from the peel also. At first taste i thought "meh, it's not that dissimilar to my Meyer Lemon". But as i kept sipping i found it has an unique floral zestyness unlike any other citrus that was surprisingly moorish. It’s bright & tart and a little bit bitter, as if a grapefruit and a lemon were mixed together.

Yuzu is believed to be a hybrid of sour mandarin and Ichang papeda. The fruit looks somewhat like a grapefruit (though usually much smaller) with an uneven blotchy skin, and can be either yellow or green depending on the degree of ripeness. Yuzu fruits typically range between 5-8 cm in diameter, but can be as large as a grapefruit (up to 10 cm or larger).

Yuzu forms an upright shrub or small tree, which commonly has thorns. Leaves are notable for a large petiole, resembling those of the related kaffir lime, and are scented.

The Yuzu originated and grows wild in central China. It is unusual among citrus plants in being relatively frost-hardy, due to its cold-hardy C. ichangensis ancestry, and can be grown in regions with winters at least as low as -9 °C where more sensitive citrus would not thrive.

Yuzu is highly prized in Japanese Cuisine. The yuzu's flavour is tart, closely resembling that of the Meyer Lemon, Grapefruit, with overtones of Mandarin. It is rarely eaten as a fruit, though in the Japanese cuisine its aromatic zest is used to garnish some dishes, and its juice is commonly used as a seasoning, somewhat as Lemon is used in other cuisines. It is an integral ingredient in the citrus-based sauce PonzuIt is also used in a variety of foods such as Marmalade, Cakes, Liquors, Yuzu Mayo, Cocktails and Drinks. 

Another use of Yuzu is on Winter Solstice, or Toji. A hot bath is drawn and whole or sliced Yuzu fruit is added to the water. Bathing in this water is said to ward off colds and flu during the winter, and to rejuvenate dry, chapped skin as the aromatic oils are released into the water. The nomilin in the fruit’s oils is said to give a relaxing effect and increased circulation. That said i don't think i'll have any to waste on such an extravagance until my tree gets bigger (it's only 1 metre tall).

Main Photo courtesy of  Edsel Little

Coffee from Tree to Cup.


When i'm not blogging my usual job is that of running a busy cafe in Ponsonby. Naturally this spawned an interest in growing my own Coffee beans as an interesting experiment. So in March 2013 i purchased my first of two Arabica Coffee trees. Coffee trees will grow fruits after three to five years, and will produce for up to 100 years. 
It is only just now that my tree is starting to flower and starting to grow edible red fruits called "Cherries". In April the white starry flowers form in clusters along branches having a strong Jasmine like fragrance, followed by green, coffee cherries. The coffee cherries turn bright red for Christmas, ready to harvest. The fruit takes about 9 months to ripen. Coffee trees are also self-fertile.
The cherries contain two seeds, or "coffee beans", which are not actually beans. In about 5-10% of any crop of coffee cherries, only a single bean, rather than the usual two, is found. This is called a Peaberry which is smaller and rounder than a normal coffee bean. It is often removed from the yield and either sold separately (as in New Guinea peaberry), or discarded.
When grown in the tropics, coffee is a vigorous bush or small tree that usually grows to a height of 3m. Most commonly cultivated coffee species grow best at high elevations, but do not tolerate freezing temperatures. My tree is currently 1.5m tall.
Arabica accounts for 80 percent of the world's coffee production. The other 20 percent is Robusta, It is high in caffeine but is generally regarded as an inferior cup quality to Arabica. It is used by many commercial coffee companies as a basis for instant coffee.


How to process your Beans.

1. Harvest your Cherries.
2. Collect the deep red Cherries and soak them in water overnight. This allows the Cherries to give up the beans, easily the next morning.


3. Removing Slippery Layer: Back into the water to ferment where natural enzymes break down the slippery layer and remove it. This will take a couple of days.
4. Drying the Beans: The beans are dried on a paper towel in a sunny window. The beans need to loose 90% of their moisture. Test this by biting into a bean and if it is still soft and chewy place back in the sun to dry until hard and dry. This usually takes 14 days.
5. Removing the Parchment: Next remove what is called the Parchment, a thin paper skin. A little labour intensive with your fingers.

6. Roasting the Coffee Beans: Once the parchment is removed you have beans with a silver skin on them and this does not need to be removed to be roasted. At this stage you can store your beans in a sealed air tight container and roast as required. To roast use a cast iron frying pan and put on with the extractor fan. Once the pan is smoking in go the beans. Kept them moving and slowly they will change colour and start to make a cracking noise.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Tangors, Tangerines & Tangelos

An interesting Citrus hybrid group are the "Tangs" - Tangors, Tangerines & Tangelos. I'm only really just discovering the difference in them recently but i think i'm getting the jist of it. Tangerines are Mandarins from Morocco & North Africa. Tangors are a hybrid of Mandarin & Orange. Tangelos are a hybrid of Mandarin & Grapefruit. Varieties i have at home are Dweet Tangor, Kiyomi Tangor, Seminole Tangelo & Ugli Tangor. I am also interested in getting a Minneola as i like the look of the protruding neck, and also a Afourer as i hear they are very flavourful & juicy.

Tangerines are reddish-orange coloured citrus that is a type of Mandarin. They're smaller than an Orange, easy-peel & sweet. They arrived in Europe in the 1800′s by way of Morocco in the North of Africa, where a large varietal was grown. The name comes from Morange "tangierines" which were grown at Palatka, Florida by a Major Atway. Major Atway was said to have imported them from Tangiers, Morocco, which was the origin of the name "tangerine". These Tangerines produced a seedling which became of one of the oldest and most popular American varieties, the Dancy tangerineThe Dancy is no longer widely commercially grown; it is too delicate to handle and ship well, it is susceptible to fungus, and it bears more heavily in alternate years. Dancys are still grown in home gardens.

Tangors are a hybrid of a Mandarin and a sweet Orange. Hence the name, the "tang" of a tangerine/mandarin and the "or" of Orange. The fruit is medium/large in size, obovate in shape, maybe with a slight neck and has a pebbled, dark orange, easy-peel rind. The flesh is orange-colored, tender, and exceptionally sweet & juicy. Dweet Tangors are ready to eat in August. Varieties include Dweet, Ugli, Kiyomi, Afourer, Murcotts.

Tangelos are a hybrid of Tangerine/Mandarin and a Pomelo/Grapefruit. They are the size of a small orange. They generally have thin, loose skin and are easier to peel than oranges. The peel colour, when mature, is a bright-reddish-orange colour. They often have a characteristic "nipple" at the stem. Varieties include Minneola & Seminole. The fruit mature in August. The sweet, intense flavor of tangerines comes through in a tangelo but is tempered by the tart and tangy, floral taste of grapefruit. This results in a fruit that is sweet-tart, exotic in flavor and extremely juicy.

Photo: Edward Peters

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Winter means Mandarins!


Lately i've been getting more interested in Mandarins. They are always rewarding with their tangy deliciousness when i have one, but i often overlook them when thinking of new trees for the garden. Another merit is that they fruit in winter when there is not much else out there in regards to fruit. 
I have had a currently have six Mandarins inground and one in a pot. The varieties are Satsuma, Scarlett Burgess, Miho, Silverhill, Encore, Clementine & Okitsu Wase.
The Satsuma is around 4 years old but is achingly unproductive & slow to grow. He is unfortunately planted under the canopy of my fig tree so during the all important growing season of spring & summer he is in shade. To add to his struggle he is on dwarf rootstock too so may never get to a decent size (I might have to move him). The fruit however is nice & sweet and of a medium/large size & very easy peel.
The Scarlett Burgess is a tree i transplanted from my old house. He is about four years old & on dwarf rootstock so is a fairly modest size (1.5m) but produces well. He is planted along the side of my house in my so-called "Citrus Hedge" along with about another ten trees. He gets good sun for most of the year and is pretty ha
ppy in his current position i would say. It is a rich-flavoured variety with highly coloured, aromatic, medium-sized fruit. Fruit ripens around mid July. It has a thin skin. The only issue with this tree is that its fruit tends to split it's skin in the autumn when the rain starts after a dry summer. The way to avoid this is to ensure consistent watering in the latter end of summer. This gradually stretches the skin of the juvenile fruit as it is growing to avoid too rapid expansion of the inside flesh as it swells with new rainwater, which in turn rips the skin apart.


The Miho is a Satsuma manderin it is a medium size tree with heavy crops of sweet juicy, easy to peel fruit, generally seedless fruit. This one has only been in the ground for about 1 year so is not yet very productive.
My Encore mandarin is a recent purchase that is a late season fruit so i can extend out the mandarin season. It is an easy peel, sweet juicy fruit, ripening early summer. Heavy producer, with the fruit holding on the tree over a long period.
My latest purchase was a Silverhill Mandarin. It is still in its pot it is an easy peel, smooth rind and attractive, flat shaped, seedless fruit. The fruit is low in acid and therefore really sweet and juicy. Ripens June.
Okitsu Wase is an early season Satsuma, in fact is the earliest ripening cultivar so is a good choice to help extend the season. The fruit is Seedless, Easy Peel, good rich flavour with low acid and high sugar.  The skin has smooth pale yellow peel, and plump, juicy flesh. Fruit size is fairly large for a Mandarin. Fruit is ripe & ready to eat late May.
Clementines are a hybrid between a mandarin and a sweet orange. The Clementine is not always easy to distinguish from varieties of Mandarins (although they are a more sphere-like), but through sampling you can clearly taste a difference.  Clementine oranges look like tiny versions of regular oranges, and they have a tart, tangy and rich sweet flavour.  The exterior is a deep orange colour with a smooth, glossy appearance. Clementines can be separated into 7 to 14 segments. They tend to be easy to peel. Clementines are a type of citrus called zipper-peel, which means the skin comes off very easily. They are almost always seedless when grown commercially (without cross-pollination)It ripens in NZ around June-July. It has good sized, sweet juicy fruit with very few seeds and a tangy flavour. Peels easily and cleanly. Generally crops well.