Well Being

Superfood Watch: Yuzu (‘Japanese Grapefruit’) Could Boost Your Mood (And Your Cooking)

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One food you may have noticed trending right now is the Asian citrus fruit called yuzu, aka Japanese grapefruit. You can find yuzu in cupcakes, martinis and chocolates, touting health benefits and taste—call it the new pomegranate or acai berry. So what is it, what do you do with it and does the yuzu live up to its superfood status?

The yuzu—which looks like a small grapefruit or a large lemon—originated in China but is most cultivated in Japan and Korea (and sometimes known as a Japanese grapefruit). The tart fruit isn't generally eaten whole but used as an ingredient in seasonings, sauces, sweets, teas and liquors. And, recently, it's been popping up on trendy menus and in craft foods all around the U.S.

Want proof? Yuzu can be found in artisanal marmalade in San Francisco, in cocktails in Phoenix (Beet & Yuzu Gimlet, anyone?), in cherry soda in Las Vegas and in margaritas in Schaumburg, Ill. There's something called ‘Kumamoto Oysters Meyer Lemon-Yuzu Ice' at RedFarm, a greenmarket/Chinese fusion restaurant in New York's West Village. There's flourless chocolate cake with yuzu/miso custard at a restaurant in Florida. There are vegan yuzu cupcakes in Palm Springs, yuzu poppyseed macarons in Sacramento, and Yuzu Toddys in Chicago. SF Weekly recently ran an article on the best places to find yuzus and pink limes.
“Recently with the growing popularity of adding novel botanicals, Yuzu has experienced a boom in popularity,” says Elizabeth Trattner, an acupuncturist and Chinese medicine practitioner. The fruit is great “from an aromatherapy perspective—it's a powerful mood lifter and smells amazing.”

A 2010 Journal of Food Science study article found limolene, from the yuzu's peel, may have anti-inflammatory benefits.

David Karp, a pomologist and Los Angeles Times writer who calls himself the “fruit detective,” says “there is very little [yuzu nutrition] information available in English, since yuzu is a rarity here.” Karp wrote a New York Times article about yuzu's “chef's darling” status—in  2003. Turns out the yuzu has been trending for quite a while now … Here's how Karp described it:

A hybrid of a primitive citrus called Ichang papeda and a sour mandarin orange, the yuzu originated in China but is most widely cultivated in Japan, where shreds or slivers of its rind are used to accent cooked vegetables, fish and noodles. Its zest and juice enhance soy sauces, miso toppings, ponzu sauces and vinegars.

The yuzu ideally complements matsutake mushrooms, and is harvested in the same season, autumn and early winter. Over this time, the fruit ripens from green to bright yellow, when it is sweetest and most aromatic.

Because yuzu cannot legally be imported into the United States, the only yuzu available here is the little bit that's grown domestically.

Nutrition Info: 1 yuzu has about 20 calories, 2 grams fiber, 1 gram protein, 1 gram sugar, 7 grams carbohydrates and 32% your daily dose of vitamin C. [source]

Recipes: Here's a recipe for pickled turnip with yuzu, from Just One Cookbook author Nami Chen. Here's an italian twist on yuzu: Pignoli Yuzu Gremolata, from Taste With the Eyes. And here's one for glazed yuzu pound cakes.

Photos: 1) Kyoto Foodie, who offers up a recipe for yuzu liqueur; 2) Taste With The Eyes.