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Strange yuzu fruit enjoying star moment

Called yuja in Korean, yuzu fights colds, cancer and is a popular ingredient in cooking.

Nov 28,2013
It is the season of yuja. These days, the lemon-sized citrus fruit with uneven skin is available at any small grocery store around this time of the year, but back in the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), they were considered a rare treat, fit for the king.

More commonly known in the West by its Japanese name, yuzu, the fruit tastes somewhat close to a lime, lemon and grapefruit.

Among the yuzu’s many health benefits, the most famous was its role in preventing colds. Often dubbed “nature’s cold medicine,” the yuzu contains a lot of vitamin C - in fact, three times the vitamin C of a lemon.

Drinking a cup of yuzu tea also relieves fever and dehydration because the yuzu has limonene, which eases coughs and infections.

Rich in citric acid, the yuzu is excellent in preventing the accumulation of lactic acid, which causes fatigue.

The yuzu also contains more calcium than any other sorts of fruits. For example, one yuzu contains 10 times more calcium than an apple.

Yuzu as a cancer-fighter

But some experts go even further with the benefits of the yuzu. One recent study on the yuzu showed the fruit even helped treat prostate cancer.

Yu Kyung-mi, a professor of food and nutrition at Soongeui Women’s College, provided dried and powdered yuzu to a group of mice that was suffering from the cancer. Yu found 50 percent of the mice who ate the powdered yuzu saw their tumors shrink.

“Carotenoid is a material that is found in the skin and the flesh of the yuzu that keeps down the growth of cancer cells,” said Yu.

She also did another study, injecting extract of yuzu into cancer cells, and saw 70 percent of those cancer cells vanish.

“The beta-cryptoxanthin of the yuzu was very helpful in killing cancer cells. They are abundant on the skin of the yuzu,” said Yu.

“One group of mice only ate the flesh of the yuzu while the other group ate both flesh and skin. I found the cancer cells of the latter group shrunk a lot more than the group which only ate the flesh of the yuzu.”

But the yuzu’s benefits go on. The fruit has been described by oriental medicine doctors as a perfect hangover remedy.

“Yuzu cools down the heat in one’s chest and it helps energy circulate,” said Park Jae-wu, a professor of internal medicine at Kyung Hee University Hospital in Gangdong, eastern Seoul.

“It is excellent in relieving the bad effects of alcohol, as well as bad breath that comes from drinking alcohol,” added Park.

The cream of the crop: Korean yuzu

The yuzu is mostly grown in Korea, China and Japan, but many consider Korean yuzu to be the best. Many Japanese yuzu food manufacturers import Korean yuzu.

But Koreans don’t consume much yuzu, put off by its typical sour flavor. It is almost impossible to eat the yuzu as a fresh fruit. So what is the best way to consume it?

“Dry both the flesh and the skin and brew them as tea, that is the best way,” said professor Yu. “Or squeeze the fruit and mix the juice with soy sauce. Yuzu soy sauce is already popular in Japan.”

Yu also added that mixing the juice of the yuzu with red pepper paste or ketchup is another way to enjoy the fruit.

Yuzu also goes well with meat, especially pork, according to chef Eom Hye-min, who is responsible for making the healthy diet options at Marriott Executive Apartments Yeouido Park Center, a residence run by the JW Marriott Hotel chain.

“Since the flavor of the yuzu is quite strong, it might overshadow the original flavor of main ingredients,” said Eom. “So yuzu should be used as one of the spices. When it is used in pork dishes, the fruit gets rid of fishy flavors and enhances the original flavor of the pork.”

By SHIN DO-HEE [so@joongang.co.kr]



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