Umeboshi is a pickled plum Japanese specialty. Umeboshi plums are commonly referred to as Japanese apricots or Chinese plums and grow on Prunus mume trees. They actually are more of an apricot than a plum and ripen to an apricot color. The plums have a similar taste to apricots when cooked and made into jam or jelly.
Shiso Perilla Herb
Japanese apricots are a natural orange color that is transformed to a beautiful purple-red 'plum' shade by the addition of Shiso (Perilla frutescens) leaves. Perilla is an easy-to-grow, annual garden herb that is available in red or green varieties. Red Perilla is what naturally colors the Umeboshi plums during their fermentation process in vinegar.
Umeboshi vinegar is a derivative from Umeboshi making and is available in Asian, Gourmet and Health Food markets. In addition to vinegar, other Umeboshi products include whole pickled plums and Umeboshi paste. Umeshu, another popular Ume Product, is mostly found in Japan. It is a sweet liqueur made from Umeboshi plums, rock sugar and 35% distilled spirits (Shochu) or Vodka. Supplies to make Umeshu are abundant in Japanese local markets during plum season (May-June).
Moderation is Key
Umeboshi products are high in sodium due to the way they are made with layers of added salt atop the plums to extract the plums juices. However, they contain less sodium than pure salt and when used in moderation -- like you do salt -- Umeboshi can still be a part of a healthy diet. The fruity, salty taste adds excellent flavor to many foods including rice, sushi, onigiri, grain salads, pasta salads, steamed vegetables, and salad dressings.
For more information, check out my Umeboshi 梅の実 Plum article published on Dave's Garden
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