|Ume plums ripening in the Yamagata rains.|
仲夏, Chuuka: "Mid-summer"
Season No. 9: 芒種, Boushu:
"Grain In Ear"
|Rice plants taking hold in Tamari, Hiroshima.|
Climate No. 27: 梅子黄
Ume No Mi Kibamu
"Plums Turn Golden"
(June 16 -June 20)
|Golden plums nearly falling off the branches in Iwakuni, Yamaguchi.|
Ume plums might seem deliciously tempting just as they are. But to bite into one would be folly; the ume plum is poisonous to humans and must be pickled in a salt brine (梅干し umeboshi), packed with sugar to make ume juice or preserved in alcohol (梅酒 umeshu) to be removed of its toxins. Fortunately, Japanese cuisine provides many opportunities to savor the succulent sourness of ume plums.
|My host mother's homemade umeboshi (Fukutsu, Fukuoka).|
Soggy, mushy umeboshi (found refrigerated in the tsukemono section of any supermarket) are usually sweeter than their dried counterpart, with more fruit flavor and less shock value. They generally make their way into meals as a side condiment, adding a spark of contrast to an otherwise bland bowl of rice or as a topping for noodles. For many people, just a couple umeboshi, a humble bowl of rice and a small serving of miso soup constitutes an entire breakfast. In Japan, the taste of umeboshi seems to change with each household in much the same way that no two kimchees are alike in neighboring Korea. Pickling techniques, equipment, ingredients and recipes are often heavily-guarded family secrets, passed on from generation to generation.
Umeboshi have their rightful place in Japanese traditional medicine, still popular with the elderly in tonics and tisanes as a remedy for heat exhaustion and as a way to shorten the lifespan of colds. Apparently, all one needs to do to boost their immune system is to drop the flesh of a moist umeboshi into a teacup and cover with boiling water, allowing it to steep for several minutes. Drinking two cups a day of this concoction for several months is said to reduce profuse sweating, increase circulation, ease poor digestion, even aid weight loss (proof pending, of course).
|Homemade umeshu plum wine (Ushiku, Ibaraki).|
Taste Of The Season: メロン, Meron, Melon
In morning dew
Mud-fresh." -Matsuo Basho
|Assorted melons and other fruit at Ameyayokocho Market in Ueno, Tokyo.|
|Free blood-red watermelon plucked fresh from the fields of Ohmi Hachiman, Shiga.|
|My Hokkaido host father finishing off a slice of world-famous Yubari melon.|
|An honest-to-goodness Densuke watermelon, costing over 300$ USD (Otaru, Hokkaido).|
|A health-conscious alternative to birthday cake! (Hikone, Shiga)|
|Spiderplant blooms in a farmer's front yard (Tone, Ibaraki).|
|Spiderplant and bumble bee (Hiroshima).|