Sunday, May 18, 2003


It's not what you're thinking. It's not that either. I have all those. However, if you're a gourmetish person residing in the gourmet hotbeds of the US like the Bay Area and New York, to name a few, you know all about yuzu (Citrus junos siebold), though nothing of why I don't have a tree thereof. If you are such a person, you know that yuzu, specifically the rind and the juice, is a very hot item, the hot item, in the gourmet world these days.

Used traditionally in Japan pretty much only for the peel, a bit of which imparts to akadashi (and boy do they have it perfected, akadashi) that unforgettable, indescribable completion that all great things achieve. Strangely, though, yuzu isn't used for much other than that modicum of flavor genius for that particular application, you don't here encounter yuzu much outside of that, but I've always loved to the depths that magic essence added most perfectly, as I've indicated, to akadashi (can you get akadashi in NY?), and with that you are already well on your way to gustatory bliss.

But only in akadashi season, generally winter, of which akadashi is the very heart. Anyway, yuzu is now the hot thing in the aforementioned hotbeds, its uniquely (and I do mean uniquely) flavored peel and juice is used in high-priced sauces and sine-qua-non dressings and beyond-the-horizon cocktails and superbeautifying facials, you name it. If you don't believe me, just Google yuzu.

Here in Japan, though, yuzu is still pretty much just yuzu. There is a point to this ramble. I went out looking for a yuzu tree for a conveniently empty space in my garden; I also wanted a few tea plants (Camellia sinensis), for another sunny spot just right in the way things tend to become just right if you wait long enough.

I went to the usual nurseries where I get all the plants I don't want to wait for, life is short, but growing seasons are shorter-- after seven years I 'm beginning to get a few plums and apricots and peaches-- so I welcome a shortcut when one is available, and I asked the lady if they had any yuzu plants. She looked at me long, the way service personnel in puzzlement have a way of doing. Was my request so strange, so exotic?

They had fig trees, apple trees, even granny apple trees, plum, peach, apricot, kiwi, grapes, loquat, natsume, persimmon, four varieties of blueberry, you name it. We looked at each other till the answer forthcame, and it was No. Why? I asked. Because there's no demand, she responded. No demand? Yes, no demand. Everybody has them. No one buys them. Everyone except me, I forebore to say.

So it appears that I'll just have to cozy up to someone who has an extra yuzu growing around, and while you're at it, could you throw in a couple of unwanted tea plants? Without sounding too strange. That's a bigger challenge than you might think, for the only guy around without a yuzu.