Clearspring Organic Umeboshi are tart, tangy, salt pickled ume plums that have been revered since ancient times both as an everyday food and a potent health tonic.
Small pieces add zest to sushi and rice balls and can be rubbed onto cooked sweetcorn or used in other dishes. Taken alone, umeboshi flesh has been traditionally used as a digestive tonic. Umeboshi are a concentrated food and only a small amount is needed.
Clearspring Organic Umeboshi plums are produced on a small scale by the Sogawa family at Ryujin village in Wakayama, the best known ume fruit growing area in Japan. The Sogawas are passionate about small scale farming and food production, managing their orchard using organic methods and following the traditional slow practice of lactic acid pickling when making their exquisite umeboshi.
They harvest their fruit towards the end of June when it is partially ripe and the juice still acid enough to give the desired tartness to the pickles. After harvesting the Sogawas soak the fruit overnight to remove any bitterness, then pack it in barrels with layers of salt and leave it to pickle for a few weeks. The secret of the pickling process, they say, is to allow the beneficial lactic-acid-forming bacteria to develop before other competing bacteria gain a hold. The right amount of salt - lactic-acid bacteria are salt-tolerant whilst many other species are not - and a cool, dark place for pickling, are critical to this process.
Around late July, when pickling is complete, the Sogawas dry their umeboshi on trays in the sun and then carry out a second, shorter pickling in the brine of pickled leaves of the fragrant red shiso herb which gives umeboshi their characteristic crimson colour and spicy flavour.