Tenryū yubeshi is a traditional food that is made from stuffed yuzu peels. Yuzu (Citrus junos) is a highly aromatic citrus fruit, that is supposedly a cross between the mandarin (Citrus reticulata) and the papeda (Citrus hystrix). It is originally from East Asia, particularly China and Tibet, it originated over two thousand years ago. It was then imported to Japan at a later date. In Nagano Prefecture, yuzu is grown in the southern part of the Shimoina District, an area rich in laurel forests. The plant is very robust, it prefers being close to waterways and tolerates very cold temperatures. Its fruits, which ripen fully from October to December, have an irregular yellow skin with some greenish tones.
To make traditional yubeshi, the yuzu is hollowed out and the skin is filled with a paste made of sugar, nuts, sesame seeds and other ingredients. They are then steamed for about 2 hours and dried naturally for about 2 months.
Tenryū is a village located in the Nagano Prefecture, in Japan. Tenryū has a population of about 1,000 people, and is located in the mountainous south end of the Nagano Prefecture, which borders the Aichi and Shizuoka Prefectures. The Tenryu Yubeshi Producers’ Association was founded in 1975 by a local livelihood improvement group. The recognition of Tenryū yubeshi began with the aim of promoting the local community, which was threatened by depopulation, and to preserve the traditional local foods that are rich in history. It is said to have been a favourite food of the samurai.
Yubeshi was in fact a humble snack that warriors brought with them to the battlefield as early as the 15th century. During the peaceful years of the Edo Period (1600-1868), the quality of home-made food improved considerably. Yubeshi became an elaborate and delicious dessert, which was used as a special gift for higher-ranking workers and rich merchants.
Today it is used as an accompaniment to soups. It can be sliced and enjoyed with whisky or served with a glass of wine.