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Sansho Pepper Tree (Zanthoxylum piperitum)


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Two great classics of Japanese cuisine in one tree! Kinome leaves and sansho buds which are harvested either green and unripe or red when fully mature. This tree offers even more when you consider it has spectacular orange and yellow foliage during autumn, impressive thorns that become striking features and its wood is used to make highly prized pestles and mortars. 

Sansho, also known as Japanese Prickly Ash (Zanthoxylum piperitum), are classed as dioecious, this means they require both a male and female to fruit. However, both sexes will normally produce some fruit even when grown on their own, you can also enjoy the leaves from both sexes. The plants cannot be sexed until 4 years old, so we also offer sets of three as an option to give you a good chance of raising both sexes and seeing high yields. 

Our sansho plants are grown from seed that was planted this Spring. They are approximately 10-15 cm tall and are sold in 8cm pots. Sansho are easy to grow, they will perform best in full sun, are hardy to -15ºC after the first year and will tolerate all soil conditions with good drainage. They have a wild bush habit but can be pruned to a single stem to form a tree if you choose.

Typically, they will grow to 3m by 2m in 10 years; they can also be raised in a pot. If growing in a pot use compost sold as suitable for citrus and fertilise with citrus feed, follow directions of the product regarding frequency and dosage. Do not over water, it is best to let the compost almost dry out before watering again.

Young leaves, Kinome, are harvested for their powerful flavour of citrus and herb which lingers in the mouth with a unique, tingling citrussy spice effect.  The leaves are added to dishes of fish, shellfish, chicken, soups and desserts like cheesecake. 

Unripe green berries are harvested in spring, just pluck from the bunches as you require them, they can be preserved in brine or vinegar.  Red sansho are harvested when fully ripe in summer, allow them to dry on the tree until the husks reveal the black seed inside. Dry them thoroughly before grinding in a peppermill or pestle & mortar. Whole, dry berries can be stored long term in an airtight container.

Highly aromatic with notes of lemongrass, fresh lemon, mint and verbena they also have a pronounced pepper element that delivers a unique citrus spiciness to the mouth that tingles and lingers. This has the effect of holding flavours in the mouth for varying lengths of time depending on the quantity of sansho that is used. Red sansho have a slightly more floral and rose-like fragrance than the green. 

Classically paired with freshwater eel (Unagi), sansho is spectacularly versatile and is equally at home bringing floral herb flavours and a long-lasting, warming feel in the mouth to fish, white meat, curries and stews as it is with fruit and cream desserts.

Please note Sansho Trees are deciduous, leaves fall in November.

Sansho Pepper Tree Growing Guide

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Customer Reviews

Based on 1 review
Glen B. (Fulham, England)
Lovely healthy little tree very well packed

Planted in the garden, looking forward to seeing it grow. Appreciated the useful information sheet on how to use the fruits and leaves once it's bigger