NOT AN APRICOT ... NOT A PLUM ... IT'S AN UME
Most fruit, when it ripens, increases in sweetness and decreases in sourness and also aroma. As ume ripen however, their acidity and aroma both increase. The most prized Nanko-ume are those that fully ripen on the tree and naturally fall. They are collected on large nets that prevent bruising and contamination, and quickly processed. Although this increases cost, it’s how Nakata Foods ensures the highest quality base ingredients.
AROMA, ACIDITY, FRUITINESS
Like other fruits high in acidity like blueberries, cranberries, and citrus, ume are excellent when used in jams, syrups, and sauces. Acidity can help neutralize odors in food; ume are often boiled with dark meat fish for this reason, and they make an excellent sauce for pork chops, for example.
Kishu Nanko-ume have an especially rich aroma when fully ripe. Because alcohol extracts and preserves aroma, umeshu liqueur is an amazing showcase of fruity fragrance. Many other umeshu producers use green fruit to reduce costs. Because Nakata Foods uses only fully ripened fruit and award-winning local natural spring water, we are confident in saying that our umeshu is among the best available. Ume sauces and umeshu are wonderful when paired with chocolate, with a taste experience reminiscent of raspberries or orange and chocolate, but with new and unique flavors depending on the pairing profile.
UME: JAPAN’S HISTORICAL HEALTH FOOD
Samurai knew that ume contributed to good health, so they ate them between battles.
Today, we still eat ume to support our health!
- Citric acid breaks down lactic acid, relieving fatigue.
- Antioxidants increase metabolism, stimulating appetite.
- Ume help relieve heat exhaustion.
- They can increase effectiveness of weight loss diet.
- They have fat-burning properties (vanillin absorbed in small intestine affects fat cell lining).
- Mumefural improves circulation, relieves sore muscles.
- The acidity of umeboshi counteracts bacteria that cause food poisoning.
- They help prevent hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure (effect on relevant hormone).
- Alpha-glucosidase helps lower blood sugar level.
- Pinoresinol suppresses growth of influenza virus.
- Calcium supports bone density.
- Ume lignans fight oxidation.
THE HISTORY OF UME
IT ALL STARTED WHEN…
The first written record of consuming ume is from the 700s AD, when they were eaten as snacks. Around 1000 AD, they are recorded as having been used medicinally. By 1200 or so, ume were part of ceremonial meals for the warrior class, and were useful in rations for their energy-giving properties.
Finally around the 1700s, commoners had access to ume as a regular ingredient. In the late 1800s, during a cholera outbreak, their antibacterial properties continued to be discovered and applied.
In 1901, a farmer in Kami-Minabe Village named Mr. Takada planted 60 ume seeds. One of those trees had a gene mutation and became the first Nanko-ume.
The variety was guarded until 1931, when a Mr. Koyama received 60 branches for grafting. In 1950 an association was formed to choose the best ume variety, and they chose the Takada ume, renaming it with one character from Mr. Takadas name and characters from Minabe High School, which cooperated in cultivating it. Nanko-ume are large, with a thin and soft skin. They ripen with an increase in fruit flavor and aroma, so are best suited for making delicious umeboshi and umeshu.
The breeder’s right has expired so anyone may grow Nanko-ume. The best ones grow in Wakayama and are synonymous with this area.