Umeboshi are known around the world under the name Ume plums. According to the responsible Hamburg Botanical Institute, these plums are to be regarded as apricots. In China, the umeboshi have been a powerful food for ages.
The Japanese Umeboshi developed even more power due to the influence of the different climate and soil conditions. Their share of minerals and organic acid is even higher than that of the Chinese umeboshi.
In Umeboshi, calcium, iron and phosphorus are so abundant that it is simply something special. In Japan, Ume is also called “the blue diamond” – a truly descriptive name.
For the Japanese samurai, ume were part of their daily rations. Even battles were decided with the incentive: “There is a grove of ume trees to conquer over there!”
Umeboshi are truly one of the best gifts from Japan to the rest of the world that we can use for our benefit.
The apricots, which are still green, are cleaned and layered in large wooden tubs together with salt. The salt content is between 12 and 25 percent.
Soaking in salt creates lactic acid fermentation, similar to the production of sauerkraut. The salt removes water from the apricots, a weighted, matching lid forces the apricots to stay below the liquid level and, due to its weight, also pushes water out of the fruit. At the same time, the desired lactic acid fermentation begins.
After one to two months of fermentation in the vats, the fruits are dried outdoors for four to seven days, depending on the weather. The fruits are now white, some of them are sold as shiroboshi. The remaining salt fruits are soaked with Shiso leaves in the umeboshi brew that is created during lactic acid fermentation. After about a week, the apricots are removed and stacked in barrels together with Shiso leaves, where they mature for another one to two years.
During this time, the umeboshi take on their characteristic color from the shiso leaves, which are also purple. They are red and quite salty and sour, which is why they are only eaten in small portions. Umeboshi are often used as an accompaniment to rice in a bentō. The umeboshi are also made into a paste (bainiku) or roasted with the core on charcoal and ground into powder.
Ume apricots are harvested green and placed in barrels with shiso leaves and sea salt. During the one year ripening period, the color of the umeboshi changes due to the intense red of the shiso leaves. They can be used in so many ways in the kitchen.
Manufacture of various Ume products
Umeboshi is usually not processed further before consumption. Umeboshi is also often served in onigiri, for example in bento boxes. The red fruit in the middle of the white rice is reminiscent of the Japanese flag (“Hinomaru-Bentō”; Hinomaru = Japanese flag).
The umeboshi is used in traditional Chinese medicine against parasites, ulcers and to support the digestive system and the heart.
Umeboshi plums have an amazing antibacterial effect, especially for diarrhea and dysentery, they work better than, for example, Pepto-Bismol. The salty, sour umeboshi also works very well for sore throats. It is also known as Japanese Alka-Seltzer, with the difference that it has no side effects. They are usually given together with kuzu or kukicha / hojicha tea.