A rare Japanese citrus fruit is coming to France!
Its plant name is Kawachi Bankan but it will be sold in Europe under its traditional name of “Misho.”
What is Misho fruit from Japan?
Misho is a rare Japanese citrus fruit.
It was discovered growing in the wild over 100 years ago. However, agronomists are unsure of its origin.
It differs from other citrus fruit in that its shape is slightly conical.
The rind is thick and yellow and the inner fruit which is also yellow produces an abundance of juice.
What does Misho citrus fruit taste like?
Misho fruit has a delightful aroma unlike any citrus in Europe or North America.
Scratch the surface of the rind and you’ll discover there are notes of mandarine and grapefruit.
The fruit has a delicate, sweet taste with tangy notes and a slight bitterness.
The bitterness is only faint, compared to other citrus fruits, because the auraptene it contains protects against bitterness. More about this powerful and beneficial substance is below.
Misho is easy to peel and the fruit keeps its aromas whether chilled in the refrigerator or frozen.
The fruit is harvested from April through July and can also be stored whole at room temperature for up to 2 months. This makes it ideal to keep through the Fall and early Winter months, as the Japanese do.
3 reasons why Misho fruit is unusual:
- All parts of the Misho fruit- the outer peel and the inner fruit -are good to eat or cook with. Other citrus fruits must be peeled before eating.
- Most citrus fruit ripens in winter but Misho ripens from spring to summer (April through July)
- Misho is found to contain much higher amounts of auraptene than other citrus fruits. This compound has extraordinary health benefits.
How do the Japanese use Misho fruit?
In Japan, Misho is eaten fresh like other citrus fruits.
The fruit produces an abundance of juice so the Japanese also drink fresh Misho juice.
Furthermore, chilled Misho juice is very refreshing because chilling it adds to its aromas, sweetness, and tanginess.
It’s an ideal drink during hot weather.
What region in Japan does Misho fruit come from?
Misho citrus fruit is grown in the Ehime prefecture in Japan. Ehime is located in western Japan in the northwestern section of the island of Shikoku.
This region borders the Seto inland sea and has a sunny, temperate climate with an average temperature of 18°C (64°F).
Ehime is surrounded by mountains that shield it from pollution and has an abundant natural environment such as forests, agriculture, and fishing.
Its weather conditions are ideal for citrus fruit cultivation, making Ehime a reference for this activity. Over 40 varieties of citrus fruit come from Ehime!
Ehime is also a beautiful sightseeing spot for health enthusiasts: It has the oldest hot spring in Japan, called the Dogo Onsen, with spa facilities and beautiful emblematic architecture.
The health spa has received a three-star rating in the Michelin Green Guide for Japan.
The area is home to the Shimanami Kaido cycleway that crosses the Seto Inland Sea from Ehime. It’s a reference for serious cyclists who come from around the world to enjoy biking through beautiful scenery.
A healthy agricultural environment yields healthy Misho fruit
Misho fruit is cultivated in a very healthy natural environment: Ehime is isolated from pollution so growers can keep pesticide use to a minimum for this fruit.
The Ehime region of Japan has the highest yield of citrus fruit than any other region.
Its mountainous terrain sets it apart from the rest of the country as well as from traffic and pollution.
So the Misho fruit grown in this clean environment is cultivated in ideal, healthy conditions.
Cultivating Misho is an art the Japanese from Ehime know well. This region of Japan is known for its production of and expertise in growing citrus fruits.
Beyond expert technique, cultivating Misho requires patience: common citrus fruits can be harvested after only 3 years for a grapefruit tree, 4 to 6 years for a lemon tree, and 5-6 years for an orange tree.
However, Japanese growers must wait 30 years before a Misho tree will bear fruit good enough to eat!
A top French chef uses Misho fruit to create a gastronomic meal
Even though Misho is not yet available for sale in France, French chefs are preparing ways to adopt this rare fruit by testing recipes using its different parts for different purposes:
According to French Chef Frédéric Jaunault, there is a distinct difference in taste if one uses only the rind, the fruit, or the juice in cooking.
Chef Jaunault is a master at using fruit in cooking:
In 2011 he obtained the highest distinction in France, the Meilleur Ouvrier de France award, for his expertise in fruits and vegetables.
France named him Knight of the Order of Agricultural Merit and in 2010 he was the European champion in a vegetable and fruit carving contest.
Additionally, his long career has included cooking in major Michelin-starred restaurants in France such as the Plaza Athénée or with Bernard Loiseau as well as in prestigious establishments abroad.
He is now the official ambassador of Misho fruit in France.
How a top French chef uses Misho fruit in a 4-course meal
In Chef Jaunault’s opinion, all parts of Misho fruit can be used for cooking. Its elegant aroma gives it an array of sweet and savory applications: from desserts, condiments, and cocktails to meat and fish.
I had the honor and great pleasure of attending a luncheon prepared by Chef Jaunault in Paris. He applied his ideas on cooking with Misho fruit to delicious, high-level creative dishes during a 4-course gastronomic French meal.
Chef Jaunault utilized his expertise in fruit to distinguish the characteristics of the different parts of the fruit and to use them accordingly in different recipes: For example, the juice was used to marinate fish or was cooked down to a caramelized sauce for meat. The rind could also be used in making marmalade to accompany a savory dish.
-Misho’s unique citrus flavor goes well with both fish and meat dishes. as in, for example, this starter course of sea bass carpaccio marinated in Misho juice:
-Misho juice is excellent as a culinary seasoning for a meat sauce: In Frédéric Jaunault’s veal main course below, Misho juice was cooked down to a caramelized sauce. Veal trimmings were also added.
-Misho’s aromas pair well with cheese, such as a French St. Nectaire. Here Chef Jaunualt created a candied condiment from Misho fruit as well as an accompanying sorbet of Misho with olive oil for a sweet and savory mix:
-Misho fruit can be poached, candied, and infused in cream as in this artistic dessert with a creamy center created by Frédéric Jaunault:
French World Champion Jam Maker Creates a Misho Jelly
France has wealth of creative world-class chefs and is a major center for new trends in high-quality food.
For example, French Chef Jean-Christophe Michelet was elected the Double World Champion in Jam Making in 2019 and was named Best Jam Maker in 2020 and 2021. He is one of the world’s experts in this domain.
Chef Michelet couldn’t resist applying his talent to bringing out the unique aromas of Misho fruit. So he carefully produced a Misho jelly without any added sugar.
The unique flavor profile of this rare fruit has been captured in Chef Michelet’s creation without the need for additional sweeteners, pectins, or other additives.
12 uses of Misho fruit in cooking
Misho fruit is very versatile as it can be used in both sweet and savory cooking. Additionally, all parts of it can be used: the fruit, the juice, and the rind.
Here is a list of 12 applications of Misho fruit in cooking
1. candied peels or marmalades -the rind has a rich flavor which adds an elegant dimension to these products
2. smoothies: the fruit can be mixed whole into smoothies since it produces lots of juice
3. fresh-squeezed juice in hot weather for its refreshing properties
4. the juice can be used in a marinade for fish, such as carpaccio, or in a sauce for meat
5. Misho can also be used to make Japanese Fruit Saké
6. cocktails – cocktail enthusiasts and “mixologists” looking for novelty would love the addition of Misho juice to their mixes: its flavor profile is like no other citrus fruit and will add an original and rare flavor dimension to any cocktail.
7. fruit gelatin/jelly
10. chocolate infused with Misho peels and juice
11. pastry – infused in cream fillings or in a Christmas spice cake, like the French “Gâteau de Noël
12. dressings for raw vegetables and salads (for example, with a French grated carrot salad)
Why does Misho citrus fruit contain extraordinary health properties?
Misho has extraordinary health properties due to the large amount of auraptene it contains.
Auraptene has been known for nearly 100 years.
However, it is only in the last 20 years that intensified research has shown that it possesses valuable pharmacological properties as an anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective and anti-oxidant agent, among others.
Increased research during the last 20 years in rare natural products has shown that auraptene is clearly promising as a neuroprotective agent.
This biologically active compound is effective in improving cognitive function and preventing cognitive decline by suppressing inflammation in the brain.
Research findings have uncovered that Misho fruit has the highest concentration of auraptene among the many citrus fruits grown in Japan. (Amakura FFI Journal, 218(1)-35,2013)
This is an important finding as populations around the world are aging and there is no known cure for degenerative cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s. Furthermore, it has been shown that the first signs of degeneration can be seen in medical testing 30 years before the outward symptoms appear.
So prevention is the best solution to avoiding cognitive decline. Healthy lifestyle choices are key preventative measures.
Scientific reports on the importance of auraptene in citrus for cognitive health
-This 2019 article appearing on U. S. based website PubMed reviews the promising therapeutic and pharmacological effects of auraptene:
-A report from 2020 published in Phytochemistry Reviews and entitled “Auraptene and umbelliprenin: a review on their latest literature acquisitions” gives an overview of the latest scientific publications showing the link between auraptene and brain health:
-Another 2020 report also explores the healing effects auraptene has on other inflammatory disorders:
by Askari, V.R., Rahimi, V.B., Zargarani, R. et al.
“Anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of auraptene on phytohemagglutinin (PHA)-induced inflammation in human lymphocytes.” Pharmacol. Rep 73, 154–162 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s43440-020-00083-5
-Japanese researchers coordinated with the Ehime Prefecture to form the “Kawachi Bankan Study Group” from 2013 -2017. (Kawachi Bankan is the plant name for Misho)
The objective was to incorporate dementia prevention into daily eating habits.
The group’s focus was on foods with functional claims that contribute to the improvement of longevity.
Their research findings led them to plan to commercialize a Misho (kawachi bankan) juice that has a concentrated dose of auraptene.
They will also research other types of products that can be derived from the Misho fruit in the future.
More details about that specific project are contained in the 2019 report (in Japanese) by:
Kazuhito Ohno, Chief of the Ehime Institute of Industrial Technology, and
Naohiro Fukuda, Group Manager of the Ehime Economy and Labor Department Industry Creation Division Technology Promotion.
Other healthy ingredients in Misho fruit
In addition to its unusually high auraptene content, Misho has many of the valuable nutrients of other citrus fruits. It contains high quantities of vitamin C, as well as calcium, potassium, and dietary fiber.
It also contains comparatively fewer calories and has a lower sugar content than other citrus fruits.
Where can you find Japanese Misho fruit?
For the moment, fresh Misho fruit is not available in France or in North America.
Growers in Ehime, Japan are adjusting their practices to European Union requirements to export Misho to France and other European countries.
However, as word gets out about how French chefs are finding creative ways of using this rare and delightful fruit, it will certainly become easier to find. Culinary exchanges between France and Japan most often lead to positive results.
And the important health properties Misho contains in addition to its unique flavor profile will make the fruit even more desirable.
For the time being, only dried fruit peels are available for shipping in the U.S. and Canada on the following two websites:
This website located in Quebec imports a “Japanese Citrus Kit” from Ehime. The kit contains 4 dried citrus fruits one of which is Misho (under the Kawachi Bankan name). The others are Yuzu, Iyokan, and Blood Orange.
This Canadian website sells each of the above dried citrus fruits from Japan separately (Misho also called Kawachi Bankan, Yuzu, Iyokan, and Blood Orange).
You can also purchase just the pack of dried Misho fruit peels (called Kawachi Bankan on the website).
Both websites have the same small producer, Kanoka, from Ehime in Japan.
Misho fruit has a unique and delightful flavor unlike any common citrus fruit used in Europe and North America.
Its faint bitterness, and notes of mandarine and grapefruit, will give a creative and original twist to sweet and savory recipes. All parts of the fruit can be consumed, giving it a wide array of cooking applications.
It’s an excellent way to add more flavor variety to sweet and savory recipes.
And Misho’s numerous health-promoting properties and nutrients are an added benefit!
You can find the French translation of this article here…
Photos courtesy of Unsplash and the author at nancyconway.com