- Main lore areas
- Main ingredients used
Ume plum, red perilla, salt
- History/origin/related events
Kairakuen Garden in Mito, one of the three most famous gardens in Japan, is famous for its plum blossoms, with 3,000 ume trees of about 100 varieties. Kairakuen was created by Nariaki Tokugawa, the ninth head of the Tokugawa family of the Mito domain. There are two reasons why Nariaki planted many plum trees. One reason is that the plum tree, as the flower that heralds the arrival of spring, makes people feel positive about the future. And the sour taste of the plum fruit was the best food for the military, as it quenched thirst and fatigue, which led to the planting of many plum trees.
In order to make effective use of all the plums harvested at Kairakuen, Prince Nariaki invented the "Shikinbai" plum tree. Clean, undamaged plums are used for umeboshi (pickled plums) and umeshu (plum wine), while damaged or unsightly plums are beaten with a mallet to remove the seeds, and only the flesh is pickled with shiso (a type of perilla). It is also called "Ume-bishio.
In addition to Kairakuen, Ibaraki Prefecture has many other famous ume viewing spots, such as Koudoukan in Mito City and Mount Tsukuba. In recent years, however, the Ibaraki Prefecture's brand-name ume, Hitachino-ume, has been gaining popularity, and ume has become a specialty in terms of food as well.
- Opportunities and times of eating habits
Ume fruit is harvested from mid to late June, but is eaten throughout the year because it is a preserved food.
- How to eat
Remove the seeds by tapping the ume with a mallet while they are still slightly firm. Sprinkle salt to 10% to 15% of the weight of the plums and mix well. Prepare red shiso (about 10% of the weight of plums), wash, remove dirt, sprinkle with salt, and let sit for about half a day. Then, black scum will come out, so remove it before adding to the plums. After a while, the color of the red shiso transfers to the plums, and the plums take on a beautiful color.
It can be used as an accompaniment to white rice or porridge, or as an ingredient in onigiri (rice ball), and has a wide range of uses. In summer, it can be served with chopped cucumbers for a refreshing meal even when the appetite wanes.
- Efforts for Preservation and Succession
(Overview of the people who have passed on the dish, preservation groups, use of SNS, modern efforts such as commercialization, etc.)
Many households still make ume paste as part of their "ume work. Kairakuen Garden also sells "Shikinbai" made from plums harvested in the garden, which is popular as a souvenir.