O’Citrus: Overcoming the odds of growing citrus in Québec

Vyckie Vaillancourt's greenhouse O’Citrus is the first-ever operation to grow citrus fruit in Québec in any sort of commercial way.

Mayssam Samaha

Mayssam Samaha

March 28, 2024- Read time: 5 min
O’Citrus: Overcoming the odds of growing citrus in QuébecVyckie Vaillancourt’s genius was taking the idea for a fictional start-up and transforming it from a passion story into a concrete project: O’Citrus. | Photograph: Peter Currie / @peterdcurrie

Before O’Citrus, Vyckie Vaillancourt grew up on a farm, Ferme Vaillancourt, just north of Montréal that was founded by her ancestors in 1823 and has been family-run since. No one expected her to take over the farm.

Being an only child, Vyckie was constantly worried that the farm, which had been in her family for 7 generations, would no longer be theirs and could potentially be sold. This concern was too much to bear, convincing her to move back and try her hand at running it to see if it suited her.

The Vaillancourt farm grows a lot of the same produce harvested at some of their neighbouring Laval farms: Eggplants, peppers, tomatoes and about a dozen other crop which are then sold exclusively at the farm stand on the premises or integrated to their subscription baskets. You can also pick your own berries in season or purchase some preserves made from family recipes.

In addition to the great produce, her father and uncle have contributed elaborate, award-winning plant sculptures destined for the International Mosaïculture of Montreal.

Photograph: Peter Currie / @peterdcurrie
Photograph: Peter Currie / @peterdcurrie

From school project to life passion

Once her decision to go back to the farm was made, Vyckie enrolled in a business management course at HEC. In it, the students had to come up with a fictional start-up project to work on. She wanted to integrate her family farm into her project and looked to the property for inspiration.

Years prior, at the incitement of a friend who had just returned from a trip to Japan, her dad had planted 5 Asian citrus trees for his personal consumption.

Those trees sitting in a corner of the greenhouse ignited a spark, and her fictional business school project was born.

Vyckie’s genius though, was taking that fictional school start-up and transforming it from a passion story into a concrete project: O’Citrus was born and Vyckie became the first-ever person to grow citrus fruit in Québec in any sort of commercial way.

Photograph: Peter Currie / @peterdcurrie

Rare Asian varieties

Today, O’Citrus counts some 120 trees and 9 different varieties of citrus fruit, from yuzu to finger lime, calamansi, kaffir lime, sudachi and more. She tries to concentrate on varieties that have distinct flavour profiles and can’t easily be found in their fresh state in Quebec.

This is what distinguishes the O’Citrus products and what makes them sought after. The limited quantities are distributed exclusively to restaurants and a handful of lucky individuals.

Vyckie works with some 20 establishments around the province, sometimes demonstrating the use of a particular fruit and how to optimize its contribution to a dish.

For example, the Buddha’s hands—Vyckie’s favourite variety—is only utilized for its incredibly fragrant zest. Chefs who only cook with regional Québécois ingredients are understandably overjoyed to add a new flavour profile to their repertoire.

Photograph: Peter Currie / @peterdcurrie
Photograph: Peter Currie / @peterdcurrie

A VIP list of customers

Chef Gilles Herzog, a professor of advanced cooking at ITHQ, can’t get enough of O’Citrus.

“I come from the south of France, and I have always been passionate about citrus fruit. To have Vyckie’s products within reach makes me so happy."

"Notre cocktail avec le yuzu québécois." | Photograph: @cabaret.lenfer / Instagram

Among her clients are many excellent Montréal restaurants and sweet boutiques such as Le Mousso, Rosélys, Toqué!, Cabaret l'enfer and Chez Potier. The bean-to-bar chocolate shop État de choc uses her yuzu and kaffir lime in the creation of some limited-edition confections.

“It's fun to support a great local initiative” says head chocolate maker Stéphanie Bélanger. “We confit the yuzu so we can conserve it longer and because every part of the fruit is precious since the quantities are so limited.”

If you want to taste some of the exceptional citrus that Vyckie produces such as yuzu and kaffir lime, État de choc makes chocolates and ice cream with these two varieties.

"Le menu sucré d’hiver va tranquillement commencer sa transition vers le printemps." | Photograph: @ratafiamontreal / Instagram

Charles Dumais, chef at the restaurant Nolan, is also smitten with Vyckie whom he met when he worked at Toqué!

“I feel lucky to be part of O’Citrus’ short list of customers. It allows me to explore new culinary horizons that are not usually on my roster because I strive to cook solely with local Québec ingredients.”

Chef Dumais had made an octopus carpaccio a few days prior for a collaborative dinner with Bistro La Franquette. He topped it with kefir lime zest. “They’re exceptional products from a remarkable local institution that I am always happy to feature and highlight.”


While it is true that Vyckie’s citrus are grown in very limited quantities and not available to most people, it is possible to grow some at home for personal consumption. Vyckie recommends growing some low maintenance varieties like Meyer lemon, calamansi and kumquat.

She advises that the most common mistake to avoid is overwatering. Just consider that these trees grow in semi-arid climates where it almost never rains in the summer. She promises that the smell of the blossoms and the taste of the fruit will be well worth the effort.

Photograph: Peter Currie / @peterdcurrie

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