Category Archives: Japanese Food Culture

Umeboshi (梅干)

The Umeboshi also called “The Japanese Salt Plum” is a very popular sort of pickles (漬け物-Tsukemono) in Japan. It is a pickled plum fruit that comes from the Ume tree.

The Umeboshi have a sour and salty, but also, fruity taste. The Umeboshi have been consumed in Japan for centuries.

Around June when the fruits ripen the Ume plums are harvested.

An important part of the Umeboshi pickling process is to let them dry in the sun during three days around July, it is called the Doyouboshi (土用干し).

Then, they are packed in barrels with salt and stocked.

The best Umeboshi are those that have matured for 3 to 5 years because meanwhile the taste of salt softens.

As only fruits of the highest quality mature well over time a lot of care is taken to select the best fruits. During the maturation process the Umeboshi are regularly checked and turned to ensure that they will have the right moisture at the end of the process.

Traditional Umeboshi have no artificial preservatives since the salt is acting as a natural preservative.

The classical Umeboshi contains around 20% of salt, yet, nowadays, new types of Umeboshi are made with lower salt ratio. It is called Choumi Umeboshi (調味梅干).

The Umeboshi’s taste is said to be very sour and salty but then again various types exist.

There are two basic types of Umeboshi the white one and the red one. The red ones differ in the way that they are prepared with Shiso.  Shiso is coming from a plant and is an important culinary product in Japan. The red Ume plums are usually a little bit saltier than the white ones since the Shiso itself is salty.  The addition of Shiso allows the red Ume plums to have a their own very distinctive flavor. Red Umeboshi are very popular in western Japan whereas people in the Kanto area prefer white Umeboshi

Another distinction is made between the regular Umeboshi and the smaller type. The smaller type is called 小梅 (Koume) which literally means small Ume plums. They can be eaten just like this thanks to their smaller size. It is especially recommended for novices. 小町梅 (Komachiume) or うす塩花梅 ( Usushio Hanaume) are made with the smaller Koume type.

Another type of  Umeboshi that can be found is the 調味梅干し (Choumi Umeboshi). These Choumi Umeboshi have lower amount of salt but they have artificial additives.

Actually, the salt is removed at the end of the pickling process so unfortunately the taste partially fades away.  This is why some artificial additives are especially required to restore and enhance the flavor and increase shelf life.

The less salty the Umeboshi is, the more preservatives (Vitamin B1) are required. Thus, the connoisseurs tend to say that it is not real Umeboshi.

Nevertheless, it is a good product for novices since the taste is not as strong as for classical Umeboshi.

Our producer Chinriu Honten Limited was established in 1871 and is well known all over Japan for its great quality products. Chinriu Honten Limited uses the size 3L (between 19 and 25g) and 4L (between 25 and 32g) Ume plum fruit and only the A type meaning that the fruits must not be either wrinkled or with black spots. It is a family owned company that is cultivating  the tradition of Umeboshi of highest quality.

How to eat Umeboshi:

  • Onigiri: The traditional Japanese rice ball. These rice balls can be eaten anytime a day and have various taste but the rice ball with an Umeboshi in the middle is a classic

To supplement rice the 梅八珍 (Ume Hachin), the花梅 (Hanaume) or the Three Years Matured Umeboshi Pickles (三年漬梅干 – Sannenzuke Umeboshi) are the best.

  • Bento: Umeboshi are often used in Bento, the traditional Japanese lunch box. It is very good to give taste to plain white rice. It is also use for the esthetic of the lunch box indeed in the middle of a square of white rice putting an Umeboshi makes it look like the Japanese national flag.

  • Umeboshi with Katsuoboshi: The Katsuoboshi is made of shave dried Bonito which went through a long and complex process of smoking – drying – fermentation.

We can find this Katsuoboshi in the 梅八珍 (UmeHachin) Pickled Ume with Shiso and Bonito flakes. The Ume plum, Shiso and Bonito flakes are pickled together that is why the UmeHachin Umeboshi has a red color. The UmeHachin Umeboshi is a bit less salty than the classical Umeboshi. Also, at first, the taste of Shiso is very strong and, combined with the sharpness of the Ume plum but then it is the smoky aroma of the Katsuoboshi that remains the longest on the palate. It is also great with rice.

  • Shochu: When drinking Shochu with hot water, it is common to add an Umeboshi in the glass. It is very good but it is also suppose to avoid getting hangover. Also, according to the tradition, the Umeboshi must be change at the fourth glass of Shochu.

  • Teatime: Sweet Umeboshi are often used as an accompaniment for tea or coffee. Even the salted version can be used as snacks during teatime. うす塩type are especially good for eating as a snack since they have a lower percentage of salt.

うす塩梅干 ( Usushio Umeboshi), うす塩花梅 (Usushio Hanaume). Of course teatime is also perfect to enjoy the 梅ジュース (Ume Juice) and the 梅ジャム (Ume Jam). With a very fresh and rich taste, it is perfect during summer. Both the juice and the jam can be eaten with yogurt or used to flavor cookies. Other products to eat as snacks are the 梅しぐれ (Ume Shigure), a gummy Japanese sweet or the はちみつ梅干 ( Hachimitsu Umeboshi), pickled Ume with honey that are also very sweet and fruity. Plus, with only have 8% of salt and the addition of honey, the taste is not that salty and the sweetness stays in the mouth, the sharpness of the Ume fruit combined with the sweetness of honey make this product a delicious accompaniment for teatime.

  • Furikake: It is a dried seasoning to sprinkle over rice. There are numerous sort of Furikake in Japan but the Umeboshi flavored ones, 梅ふりふり (Ume FuriFuri), are very popular. Once again it is a simple and economic way to supplement white rice.

  • Seasoning: There are many seasoning made from Umeboshi such as the 裏ごし梅肉 ( Uragoshi Bainiku) there is two version white and red. The red version differs by the presence of Shiso. These paste of Ume are usually used as condiment when eating meat. Indeed, you can either spread it on thin slices of meat before or after cooking it. The white versions also fits very well fish dishes.

  • Okayu: It is rice gruel; very healthy, it is usually cooked for sick people. Okayu is good for health but the taste is very plain thus Japanese people used to put some Ume plum or 梅びしほ (Umebishiho), a sweet and sour Ume plum paste, in it. Nowadays, Umebishiho is used in many more ways. It also fits western cuisine very well. For instance it is very good to supplement meat dishes or as a dressing for salads. It has a bittersweet fruity taste that brings an original flavor to your cooking.

Effect of Umeboshi on Health: 

- Umeboshi is said to be a great source of energy. It has been consumed for centuries in Japan. Samurais used to eat Umeboshi before the battle for energy and when Japan was still very poor and underdeveloped, peasants used to say that even if they had nothing to eat with just one Umeboshi they could work for one day. It is very good for one’s stamina.

- Umeboshi have a high concentration of citric acid. The citric acid acts as an antibacterial and facilitates the digestion by increasing the production of saliva. In Japan, where people eat a lot of rice, the Umeboshi are very good since the acidity of the fruit really helps digesting.

Learn more about the 梅酒 (Umeshu) the Japanese Plum Wine :

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