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A Basic Japanese “Umeboshi” Guide: Varieties, Ways to Eat, Production Areas, and More!

Umeboshi are indispensable to traditional Japanese breakfasts. This article focuses on this great food item that actually has wonderful health benefits and can prevent food from going bad. Read this article, and you are sure to want to try an umeboshi!

What Are Umeboshi?

Umeboshi are plums that have been pickled in salt then sun-dried. Because they are pickled, they can be preserved and are salty to the taste. They can easily be purchased at supermarkets and elsewhere.
Wakayama Prefecture in the Kinki Region is Japan's No. 1 producer of plums, so if you have plans to go to Wakayama, be sure to pick up some umeboshi.

Popular Ways to Eat Umeboshi in Japan

Umeboshi are often wrapped in onigiri (rice balls) or placed in the middle of rice in bento boxes. Onigiri and bento boxes with umeboshi are available at convenience stores. They are also often used in cooking as they cancel out the smell of meat and fish. There is a variety of dishes made with umeboshi, such as umeboshi paste mixed with shiso (Japanese basil) wrapped in pork slices, and umeboshi and sardines cooked together in a sweet and savory soy-based sauce. The acidity of umeboshi also make them great in salad dressings.

The Wide Variety of Umeboshi: Types and Flavors

Not all umeboshi are sour. In fact, there is a wide variety of flavors ranging from salty ones, ones with the umami flavors of bonito flakes and kombu kelp, and even kimchi-flavored ones!
The recommended type to take home as gifts is the honey umeboshi, which has a nice balance of sweetness and acidity. The soft tartness makes it appropriate for people trying umeboshi for the first time.
Umeboshi are available at supermarkets, but department stores, umeboshi stores, and shops specializing in products from Wakayama Prefecture offer a wider selection of high-quality umeboshi.

Umeboshi Benefits: Great for Exhaution and Hangovers?!

The tartness of umeboshi is due to citric acid. Citric acid promotes energy metabolism, so it can help you recover from exhaustion. It also has anti-aging benefits, and increases appetite so that you can get the nutrition necessary to stave off heat exhaustion in the summer.
The picric acid in plums also improves liver function, so umeboshi are effective for hangovers. Why not try an umeboshi the next time you have had a little too much to drink the night before?

Popular Plum-Flavored Sweets and Plum Wine

There are many plum-flavored sweets sold in Japan. Items such as plum-flavored candy and dried plum are readily available at convenience stores and are perfect as souvenirs.
Ume-kombucha, which has the perfect combination of bright plum flavors and the umami flavors of kombu, are also popular. Though called "tea" (cha), it tastes more like soup than tea.
If you like to drink, be sure to try ume-shochu, which is umeboshi added to shochu (Japanese alcohol) mixed with hot or cold water or soda. It is a refreshing drink that goes down smoothly and actually helps to prevent hangovers. You'll love it if you like plum wine made with green plums!

What do you think? Plums are also known for their pretty blossoms with a lovely fragrance and are popularly appreciated like cherry blossoms. Why not have some umeboshi or plum wine while enjoying the blossoms?

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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