What is Ume? Where did it come from?
“Ume” means Japanese plums in Japanese. You may have heard of “Umeboshi” in Japanese which are pickled Japanese plums that we normally eat with white rice in Japan.
In Japan, there is an old saying that “coarse tea and Japanese plum a day keeps the doctor away” and “Japanese plums keeps the trouble away.” Historically, Ume came to Japan in the Aska era (between 6th century and 8th century) from China. In the Heian era (between 8th century and 12th century) Japanese plums were mentioned in the oldest book of medicine in Japan. In the Sengoku era (between 15th century and 16th century) Japanese plums became one of the necessary medicines in places where war and fighting takes place and to prevent the spread of diseases and epidemics.
How to eat Ume (Japanese superfood)
The recent study shows that a major component of Japanese plums, citric acid and other components have a lot of health benefits such as fatigue relief effects, bactericidal effects, and anti-aging effects. Also, they control intestinal functions to improve intestinal environments.
In old days, it was common that Japanese people keep homemade Japanese picked plums, Umeboshi at home. Normally, June is the time to make the pickled Ume in an earthenware pot and keep it in the basement. The pickled Ume or Umeboshi has been served as a daily side dish in Japan. Japanese people also eat pickled Umeboshi when they catch a cold as it is supposed to strengthen human immune system.
The pickled Ume can also be used as a substitute of sault as pickled Ume is salty and go well with other Japanese food ingredients. For example, you can marinate various vegetables with pickled Ume or add pickled Ume into a dressing for your salad.
Ume can also remove strong smell of seafood or meat so you may see pickled Ume being used in Japanese dish. In the picture below, you can see the pickled Ume meat is used in a sauce over the grilled fish.
Different types of Ume
You can purchase pickled Umeboshi at a store in Japan. As you may know there are many kinds of pickled Umeboshi which taste pretty different from each other. Check out the name of the brand below and website (those
1. Suppai Ume
“Suppai Ume” is from the shop called “Yasashi Umeya-san” meaning a kind Ume shop. The shop in Wakayama prefecture which produces a top Ume brand in Japan offers pickled Ume with organic Japanese plums. “Suppai Ume” keeps traditional pickled Ume taste with strong sourness and saltiness and less sweetness.
2. Kanjuku Juro Ume
“Kanjuku Juro Ume” is sold at the shop called “Shojuen” located in Odawara city in Kanagawa prefecture. The brand is one of the most famous Ume from Japanese apricot, Soga Bairin in Odawara city. The Ume shape from this shop is as beautiful as jewelry. Same as “Suppai Ume” above, it has stronger sourness and saltiness than sourness but it is less salty than Suppai Ume.
3. Wine Ume
“Wine Ume” is produced by the shop called “Kuraya” from Wakayama prefecture. The unique things about this shop is that they use red wine from Japan but do not go through the fermentation process when pickling the Ume. Wine Ume is less salty and sour but has more sweetness in it.
“Shugyoku” is from the shop called “Umehachi” in Tokyo. The shop uses plums from Wakayama prefecture to make their pickled Ume. Each Ume is in individual package so it is also perfect for a gift. Shugyoku has a balanced combination of sourness, sweetness, and saltiness.
5. Mikan Ume
“Mikan Ume” is from the shop called “Hamada” in Wakayama prefecture. It uses Nanko-ume, a kind of Ume, from Tanabe city in Wakayama prefecture and orange juice from the same area which adds fresh taste to the pickled Ume. Mikan Ume has more sweetness than sourness and saltiness.
You can make Ume juice by using ripe plums at home. If you are in Japan, you may have seen Ume juice making tools at a supermarket in June. For those of you who like alcohol, you may also make Ume liquor at home.
1. Buy 500g or 1kg of ripe plums and wash them with water. Dry them completely.
2. Buy a package of vinegar for making plum juice (500g or 1kg).
3. Mix 1. and 2. in a large bottle.
4. Leave it in the fridge for two weeks or so and it is ready to drink.
5. Pour plum juice in a glass with ice or water. The drink is not just refreshing but it relieves fatigue in your body.