Seasonal Ingredients – Ume Plum

Which typical seasonal foods of May and June do you think of?
~Spring cabbage, new potatoes, the first bonito, cherries, plums, etc.
As mentioned above, there are many foods that are in season in May and June, but today I would like to introduce ume (Japanese apricot) among them.

Plums are very familiar to those who live in Japan, as they are part of the Japanese eating habits and flowers.

In Japan, it means "elegance," "integrity," "perseverance," and "fidelity. In the West, the words "keep your promise," "fidelity," and "beauty and longevity" are said to be in the language of flowers.

Plum blossoms bloom in the cold season of February, but they have a different beauty from cherry blossoms. So if you live in Japan, please take a look at them in February. It is the plum blossoms, not the cherry blossoms, that bloom at that time of the year.
In terms of eating habits, umeboshi (pickled plums) and umeshu (plum wine) are well-known. Let me introduce to you the process of harvesting ume blossoms.

【Harvest time】
Generally, plums are harvested around June, during the rainy season.
In June, many ume fruits are sold in supermarkets.
There are also places where you can pick plums just like strawberry and grape picking.
Please try it as a Japanese cultural experience!

【How to preserve plums】
You can get quite a lot of plums at one time. Therefore, if you leave them as they are, they will rot, so there are various ways to preserve them in Japan.
By making umeboshi (pickled plums), umeshu (plum wine), and umeshiru (plum syrup) using these preservation methods, plums can be stored for more than one year. The taste varies from household to household, and is often referred to as "mom's taste" or "grandma's taste.
There are a variety of pickled plums, from salty plums to today's honey-sweet pickled plums.

【Foods made with plums】

・Ume-boshi (pickled plums)
The first time umeboshi were made in Japan was during the Heian period (794-1185). At that time, umeboshi were treated as medicine for the upper class and used to cure illnesses.
In the Warring States period, umeboshi were said to be an essential item for samurai and warriors, and were used to disinfect wounds and prevent food poisoning.
In addition, umeboshi are rich in vitamin A, vitamin E, carotene, polyphenols and citric acid.
So, it is said that pickled plums stimulate metabolism and relieve fatigue. Citric acid also has an antibacterial effect, so put them in your lunch box or onigiri (rice balls).

・Umeshu (plum wine)
Umeshu (plum wine) is made by soaking whole plums in alcohol (white liquor, shochu, brandy, etc.) with sugar for a certain period of time to extract the juice and extracts.

It is said that the longer the plums are soaked in sake, the richer the taste becomes, and some plum wine is said to be matured for more than 10 years.
The pickled plums can be eaten as they are, or they can be boiled and made into plum jam.

【In other countries】
In Korea nextdoor, once a year during the Chinese cabbage season (around November), a year's supply of kimchi is made and stored.
Do you have a similar food culture in your country?

If you are interested, please find a facility where you can experience Japanese food culture!
& DM