The umeboshi (sour plum) is a mini-superfood within a Japanese diet packed with vitamins and nutrients, but they are also used as a symbol of Japan itself when prepared at the center of a bento box of plain white rice representing the Japanese flag. Wakayama, in the south of Kansai’s Kii Peninsula, is especially famous for the production of umeboshi.
Ume is Japanese for plum and together with boshi generally means pickled or dried plum. Although umeboshi can be extremely sour due to their high acidity whether they are eaten alone as a healthy snack, at the centre of a rice-ball, or in the middle of a box of rice, umeboshi are a veritable power-pack of healthy dietary components. Containing a touch of protein, one of the most fundamentally important parts of the diet, together with a good dose of sodium, potassium, and even a good level of dietary fiber, umeboshi also provide a great vitamin source too Vitamins A, B1, and B2.
Most Japanese grow up learning to love them yet many foreigners might have trouble getting their taste buds around their sour taste. Nonetheless, umeboshi are without a doubt worth a try! My own first time to try umeboshi was, just like many people, on the many occasions in Japan when I was given a Japanese bento box (packed lunch). At the time the taste of this sour plum was actually quite a turn off and I often ignored it by leaving it on the side after that. Perhaps it is similar to natto and some other Japanese foods as they too might not be so popular with all foreigners the first time they try it.
A great trick for first-timers is to break off the umeboshi into small chunks with your chopsticks and mix it with your rice to make its sour plum taste more subtle. The rice with a slight taste of umeboshi is certainly a wonderful change to something so simple and you will not have to pay attention to the hard core of the plum either, which is another off-putting part for those more used to ready packed, processed, de-stoned foods.
Rests to say that umeboshi is a great plum snack that will grow on you, and these days I often find myself heading to the supermarket to pick up a pack of umeboshi to keep in my fridge whenever I want a taste sensation with a really tasty sour kick.