Ujukitsu (sweet lemon)

We have talked a lot about the ujukitsu on GardenLine in recent weeks, mainly because listeners who have been growing them were worried about freezing weather. I love this fruit tree for several reasons, and one is its ability to handle cold temperatures better than other “sweet” lemons. Frankly, it can handle drops into the mid-20s and survive. I also love cooking with ujukitsu. And I love saying the name -- oo-joo-KIT-soo.

Did I say sweet lemon? Yes. There are a number of lemon trees considered “sweet,” and several are just called “sweet lemon.” The ujukitsu was originally named Lemonade Fruit.

We have had success locally with the Meyer lemon and, while it’s not as sweet as ujukitsu, it has a hint of orange.

And what exactly is “sweet?” It’s a generic term used to describe citrus hybrids with low-acid pulp and juice. Sweet lemon plants are not really lemons … they’re lemon hybrids - crosses with other types of citrus. In the case of ujukitsu, it is thought to be a strain of tangelo, which is, in turn, a cross between a grapefruit and a tangerine.

Rio Farms, a USDA research center in the Rio Grande Valley, originally brought ujukitsu to the United States from Japan. The region had a significant freeze in 1983, killing most of the citrus, but one ujukitsu survived. John Panzarella, a citrus expert from Angelton who has been a GardenLine guest in the past, collected some budwood from it to propagate.

Ujukitsu sweet lemon trees have a "weeping" habit with long, arching branches. Fruit appears at the ends of the branches and is pear-shaped. When ripe, the fruit is bright yellow and thick, making it difficult to peel. Inside, the pulp is mildly sweet and juicy. Ujukitus grow more slowly than other citrus, but its fruit appears earlier than other “sweet lemon” trees, such as sanoboken. They bloom profusely with aromatic blossoms in the spring followed by fruit formation. The largest fruit is about the size of a softball and ripens through the fall into winter.

I’m bringing all this to your attention because, when we get to our annual “fruit tree sales season,” lots of ujukitsu trees will be available. I’ll relay info about all the 2020 sales in early January. But if you need one right now, The Arbor Gate in Tomball has made it their mission to carry fruit trees year-round.

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