Know Ume, the Japanese plum and its variations

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Ume [梅] is a Japanese name for Prunus mume, a species of Asian plum in the Rosaceae family. The tree belongs to East Asia and Southeast Asia which is also known as Chinese plum, Japanese plum or Japanese apricot.

A plum blossom it is quite common to be seen in paintings and in poetic quotations. In addition, it has a variety of forms of preparation such as drinks, condiments for alcohol, sauces and even for traditional medicine. Plum consumption in these ways is more common in Japan, China, South Korea and Vietnam.

The tree that produces the fruit originated in southern China, more specifically in the Yangtze River and later inserted in more places. The flowering of the tree at the end of the winter and early spring is considered a seasonal symbol. It can be found in outlying forests, the banks of streams, forested slopes along trails and mountains. Generally at altitudes that commonly range from 1,700–3,100 meters and growing regions.

Ume begins to bloom in mid-winter, normally around January to the end of February in East Asia and its size can measure from 4 to 10 meters, with well-fragrant flowers and colors that vary between shades of white, pink and red. . The fruit is in the beginning of summer (between the months of June and July). various shades of white, pink and red.

Ume - Know ume, the Japanese plum and its variations
Black plum cultivation

Curiosities of Ume

The Japanese plum has the scientific name of prūnus and can be called Ume or Mume. Another alternative name is mei. In Japan, as ornamental cultivars of Prunus mume are classified into types: yabai (wild), hibai (red) and bungo (Bungo province). The varieties of yabai, Nankoume have their fruits used to make umeboshi (pickled Japanese plum).

It is common in Japan and China for the Ume tree to be planted in the garden of houses, because according to superstitions it means luck and wards off evil spirits. Ume is also beneficial for health as it has vitamin C, calcium, potassium, dietary fiber, and is low in fat and calories.

Umeboshi (fermented plum) and an alcoholic drink called Umeshu are made from Ume. And there is also the 'belief' that eating Umeboshi for breakfast will make bad luck and misfortunes go away.

For medicinal purposes, mainly in China, it is effective to treat bacteria that cause oral diseases such as cavities and also gastrointestinal problems such as gastritis and gastric ulcers.

Wakayama Prefecture is known in Japan for the quantity and quality of ume and umeboshi. The city of Minabe is the most productive in terms of fruit.

Ume - Know ume, the Japanese plum and its variations

Umeboshi: the salted plum

Umeboshi is a pickled plum with a sour, salty taste. There are also sweets made from this variation of the fruit made with honey and served as an accompaniment in rice balls and without removing the pit.

Umeboshi is round and can be smooth or wrinkled like raisins. Ume is harvested as soon as it ripens and packed in barrels with 20% of salt per fruit weight and left for two weeks. The liquid that comes out is marketed as umezu or ume vinegar. It is also used for a very common Japanese remedy for flu-like symptoms along with okayu.

Plum - get to know ume, the Japanese plum, and its variations

Umeboshi has been used since time of the samurai to combat fatigue after battles due to salt and citric acid content among other factors. It has common usage to compose culinary dishes for flavor presentation. And in addition it can be served with the drink called shochu and hot water.

In the United States and Australia, the fruit is canned and consumed at snack time. In Japan eating umeboshi corresponds to the English expression “an apple a day”. Children's candy stores sometimes have the option of karikari ume, or pre-packaged, crispy pickled ume, and dry umeboshi.

Umeshu: The Japanese Plum Drink

Umeshu is the drink made from Ume and for general use the unripe plum is the best option. Sugar and rice alcohol (shochu) are added. The production season takes place in the months of June in Japan.

The drink was consumed as a medicine for the treatment of sore throats. But, now it has become a popular alcoholic drink and the Japanese used to make it at home.

Plum - get to know ume, the Japanese plum, and its variations



  • 1kg of plum;
  • Half a kilogram of sugar;
  • 2 liters of fruit juice
  • Filtered water;

Instructions on how to make

Soak the ume in filtered water for eight to twelve hours to remove the bitter taste of the fruit. Then discard the water and wash the plums under running water. Put the green ume in a jar with the sugar (preferably in stone) with the shochu.

If you opt for granulated sugar, it is recommended to shake the jar once a day. If you prefer, you can use brown sugar in the kokuto style. The container must be tightly closed and rest in a dark place for at least six months. But, the ideal waiting time is one year.

The mixture can be made with any alcoholic beverage. However, shochu is the most used and indicated. Umeshu can be consumed with ice, pure, with water (mizuwari), with green tea (ochawari), with hot water (oyuwari), with soda or tonic.

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