Lemon Aspen, or Acronychia acidula, is an evergreen rainforest tree native to northern Australia (predominantly Queensland) and the moist tropics, but is now successfully grown as far south as Sydney. Growing up to a more than 20 metres tall in the right circumstances, it can be found flourishing even in the shadiest areas so long as moisture levels remain high. It does prefer full sun for maximum fruiting.
Like many other waxy evergreens, the Lemon Aspen is jam-packed with aromatic oils - from bark to leaves, flowers to fruit - all exuding a pleasant fragrance, with the latter harvested as a bushfood favourite.
Best explained as having a tart, tangy flavour akin to a blend of grapefruit and lime - along with its own unique character - the fruit of the Lemon Aspen follows soon after flowering in summer to late autumn.
Reaching a 3-4cm diameter, these pale yellow fruit weigh down the outer branches as they develop and ripen in heavy bunches. With a texture similar to an apple core, their spongy flesh often contains small black seeds at the heart.
With an undeniably citrus aroma (particularly straight after picking) and a very strong acid flavour of lemon and tropical spice tones (teamed with notes of eucalyptus and honey) as well as a hint of grapefruit, the fruits are a rich source of antioxidants and B vitamins, with the juice of the Lemon Aspen traditionally used by indigenous peoples to boost their immune systems and to calm sore throats.
Enjoyed raw or cooked in any number of preparations including syrups, jams, cakes, jellies, sauces, juices, salad dressings, or to accompany seafood or poultry, the crisp texture teamed with their lemon-like flavour are a surefire hit however you choose to sink your teeth in! Lots of recipes are available online.
Nursesries Online confirm that one of the best ways to prepare it is to put it in a little water and cook it down with a little water until the fruit is just soft. Use a blender or stick mixer create a puree and use it to flavour cakes as well as savoury dished where the distinct lemon flavour is required. A Lemon Aspen Butter Sauce for use with fish or chicken is a popular recipe. Lemon Aspen Garlic Aioli is another, widely used with prawns.
The Food Coach has shared this fabulous recipe for Lemon Aspen Slice.
Lemon Aspen fruits work well alongside other bushfood staples such as Quandongs and Muntries. They can be picked slightly under-ripe for better longevity.
There are a number of bush tucker and native nurseries around Australia. Lemon Aspen grows on Australia's east coast, so source nurseries like Daleys, Tuckerbush or checkout the Online Nursery Directory.