PRODUCERS: NEVILLE AND JUNKO CHUN
We like to think of Neville and Junko Chun’s yuzu story as a bit of a love story – it certainly started out that way! When Neville started dating his Japanese girlfriend, Junko, she talked a lot about a fruit from her homeland that she loved but couldn’t find in New Zealand – yuzu.
Neville, who worked at his family’s garden centre, started searching for the funny-sounding fruit. In Japan, yuzu – a citrus fruit, is as familiar as lemons or grapefruit, and is used for an array of culinary and health benefits. Neville’s search led him to a small citrus nursery in Tauranga (since closed), where he discovered a batch of ornamental yuzu plants that they didn’t really know what to do with.
“They said: ‘it’s a thorny thing with really sour fruit – do you want the lot? We’ll give you a special.’ They were happy to get rid of the trees!”
He blindly bought 50 trees, not knowing much more about it – wooing Junko with yuzu instead of roses!
It obviously worked, as 15 years on they are happily married with two teenage children, William and Aiko; and from those initial 50 trees, they now have a 400-tree yuzu orchard in Horowhenua (bigger than some of the biggest yuzu orchards in Japan, no less). It is very much a family business; Neville and Junko do everything themselves, including tending the spray-free orchard and harvesting all of the fruit. When they started out, absolutely no one knew what a yuzu was, let alone what to do with it.
“No one was silly enough to grow it. It was such an unknown fruit back then. We started out with a view to exporting, but just through word of mouth and social media we’ve marketed it locally and now our full crop is gobbled up by local customers who have embraced the distinct qualities of yuzu,” Neville says.
The early harvest of green, unripe yuzu is highly valued in Japan for making Yuzu Kosho – a type of mustardy, pungent condiment made with the green peel, hot green chillies, and salt.
The later harvest in mid-to-late May captures the ripe golden yellow yuzu. The flavor profile is different and the fruit is much bigger. Junko recommends adding it at the end of cooking as a fragrance top note for fish, or grating it over a lovely hot soup or as a salad dressing with both the peel and juice. She says she tries to slip yuzu into everything, even sushi rice!
The potential is limitless; Garage Project Brewers, Wellington even brew a special yuzu addition seasonal beer with the Chun’s fruit – one of their biggest sellers! (It will be available at Farro later this month.)
We are delighted to be able to introduce Neville and Junko’s yuzu to Farro customers, so you can discover it and fall in love with it too!
How to make Yuzu Tea..
This is a very popular use of fresh yuzu in Japan and Korea. Use the sugar-cured yuzu confit to make hot yuzu tea or cold yuzu soda, drizzle over your breakfast porridge or ice cream. It is also a great remedy for the flu or if you feel a cold coming on.
500g organic sugar
Rinse and dry yellow yuzu fruit. Cut them in half and remove the pips (discard the pips).
Slice the yuzu thinly and mix it with the organic sugar (1:1 ratio – 1kg yuzu to 1kg sugar). Use the juice too. Do not use any water, just the yuzu fruit, juice and sugar.
Pack into a sterilised airtight container and let it cure on the bench for two weeks. Use a wooden spoon to mix it once a day for a couple of days, then once a week.
After two weeks, store it in the fridge. The longer you leave it, the better the flavour. You can also put it into a ziplock portion bags and freeze. Enjoy!