Japan is not a big citrus production region with regard to production quantity, but what many people do not know is that this country has many original, locally bred, citrus varieties that are consumed by local customers on a daily basis.
Special Japanese citrus varieties
There are over 100 citrus varieties in Japan, and they all have different names. Ryo is the sales manager at Astra Inc., he introduced a few types of citrus that are not widely known, but are consumed on a daily basis by local Japanese people.
“Yuzu, a citrus varieties with more than 1000 years of history, is harvested in December, with a price around 1 euro/piece. This variety is very popular in Japan. We use them even more often than limes. Local people love it for its original aroma, and usually only the skin is used to make products like jam, cake, salad dressing, mixed with miso, chili paste, liquor, etc. Yuzu is also used for face masks, body cream and other aroma related products.”
“Kabosu is another type of a minor variety of aromatic citrus. The peak harvest season begins in summer and lasts until autumn. This variety has 300-400 years of history and is only produced in Ooita prefecture. In Ooita area, people use the fruit for flavoring. They drip its juice on a variety of recipes like Sashimi, grilled fish, miso-soup, sake and Shochu. Kabosu is not used or sold much outside Ooita area, but some high-class Japanese food restaurants use it to create a sense of luxury."
“Unlike Kabosu, Hassaku is a country-wide popular citrus variety like Yuzu, with 150 years of history. Hassaku is harvested in winter, and the peak sales period is from January until April. The price is around 3-5 euro/piece. We often eat the fruit fresh, and the fruit seeds have an elegant sweetness, which is why we use them often for flavoring.”
“We also have Kinkan which is mainly used for New Year celebrations; Zabon, of which we only eat the white part of the skin with sugar; and Dekopon, which has a normal size but unique flavor.” Ryo said, “There is so much to say about Japanese local citrus varieties, we could make a book out of it!”
Yuzu, Kabosu and Hassaku
Universal methods for peeling different type of citrus
Every variety has its own features. Having a universal peeling method is essential for processors to make best use of the fruit with high efficiency. Ryo gives a few examples of how the Astra peeler is applied to different citrus varieties.
The outer skin of Yuzu and Kabosu contain high levels of aromas, which can serve as flavoring for drinks. The challenge for peeling these varieties is that they often become softer when they ripen, which makes peeling difficult. The ‘conventional round’ type peeler will easily damage the fruit and peeling often doesn’t go well. To better help Yuzu processors, we developed a patented ‘blade peeler’ technology. Our KA-700H machine is able to peel the fruit cleanly and beautifully, even when they are ripened.”
Fresh Hassaku is consumed in large volumes by local Japanese. Astra has many satisfied customers of retail shops and supermarkets who use their KA-700H for peeling Hassaku. “This model is very small and compact, and can peel one piece of fruit in 5 seconds. You can easily place it anywhere. The peeler not only helps the store to do the peeling work, but also draws interests and attention from in-store customers. Their chosen fruit can be peeled immediately in the store.”
Besides retail sized models, Astra also has industrial capacity models with higher capacity. "Our FAP-1001 works at high speed, with a capacity of 1200 fruits/hour. This is especially suitable for fruit processing factories, large scale catering companies and limoncello factories that require a high yield rate.”
Ryo then introduced the uniqueness of the Astra ‘citrus model’. “Most peelers in the market require 2 fixing points, meaning both the top and bottom of the fruits are held by the peeler. One remarkable thing about our peeler is that only 1 side is needed to be attached to the machine. Less damage to the surface of the fruit results in fewer drippings and the fruit remains more complete.”
“Blade quality and peeling movement are the two most important factors that define a ‘good peeler’. Not only the physical design, such as length, width, and shape of the peeler, but the material also plays an important role. To obtain the best blade quality, we used the best material for the blade of the peeler, and the metal used for some blades can only be produced in Japan. Moreover, in order to have a superior peeling movement, we performed countless tests on the blade moving route, peeling angle, and rotation speed control. So, peeling seems a simple performance, but all these elements need to be balanced and interact with each other.”
Users do not have to notice the complex technology, as the peeler is designed in a very user-friendly way. “The machine is pre-programmed, all users need to do is attach the fruit to the peeler, choose a program, and press start. With an adjustable peeling depth, the blade can handle fruit skin from ‘paper-thin’ till ‘cardboard-thick’.”
Over the past 20 years, Astra has been fully dedicated to automatic peeler innovation. The company has received several awards related to automatic peeling technologies. “We sold many pieces of citrus peeler to Taiwan in the past 1 year. In the meantime, we also see big potential in the US and European markets. Distributors are welcome to contact us.”