A yuzu juice-lover restaurateur avoided paying $100 a bottle by experimental farmers next door

At the Sööma restaurant in the southwest of Western Australia, diners used to sip yuzu cocktails made from expensive imported Japanese juices.

At least, until restaurant owner Deborah Sillaots discovered that the nearby shop was owned by farmers with 600 of their own yuzu.

“It’s quite an exquisite flavor. It’s citrus but it’s a mix of tangerine, grapefruit and lemon,” Ms Sillaots said.

“It makes a nice cocktail, and then we started using it as a dressing on some of our Japanese-style dishes. »

Ms Sillaots was paying up to $100 for 750ml bottles of imported yuzu juice before her neighbors mentioned they were growing it on their farm east of Manjimup, a town with a thriving horticultural industry known for its apples and avocados.

“A kind of ugly lemon”

This winter, Paul Edwards harvested his first yuzu crop after planting 600 trees between 2020 and 2021.

“It looks like some kind of ugly lemon,” he said.

“But it peels and separates like a tangerine. »

Paul Edwards had yuzu for 18 months and harvested around 50 kilos.(Provided: Paul Edwards)

He got the idea to plant yuzu after his son discovered the fruit in agricultural school.

In addition to his commercial vegetable and sheep farm, he now plans to expand the yuzu orchard to sell the fruits.

This would make him one of the few commercial growers of yuzu in Australia.

“We are working on getting it out there,” Mr. Edwards said.

“Cosmetically, it could go into soaps and shampoos. It’s pretty well known for that in Japan. »

a woman leaning on a restaurant counter
Deborah Sillaots offers yuzu cocktails at Söoma restaurant in Manjimup.(Provided: Deborah Sillaots)

Ms. Sillaots liked the “stronger, tastier” citrus flavor of yuzu and was willing to continue paying $100 a bottle to use it in her cocktails.

But now with a farmer on her doorstep, she’s planning new recipes for specialty dinners and seasonal menus.

Why is yuzu so expensive?

Yuzu fruits are often smaller and produce much less juice than lemons.

A 20-litre bucket of fruit produces just 750ml of juice, Ms Sillaots said.

sliced ​​yuzu fruit
Deborah Sillaots says yuzu is like an “incredible” citrus explosion in the mouth.(Provided: Deborah Sillaots)

Likewise, the quality of the juice varies wildly, and she felt that the $100 bottles from Japan were worth the premium over the cheaper juices sold in some Australian liquor stores.

“We use 15ml in a cocktail,” she said.

“That small amount gives it incredible flavor.

Paul Edwards said he has had no problems growing yuzu so far and expects to be very competitive in the market as his trees mature.

“Our climate is similar to Japan’s, with lovely cool winters and mild summers,” he said.

Ms Sillaots said it was amazing what had been successfully grown in the area.

“I think you can grow anything in Manjimup,” Ms. Sillaots said.

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