NOURISHING ESSENTIALS (April 2021) - Sakura & Ume (桜・梅) : Japan’s Springtime Blossoms
Producer:Hara Kotobuki En
Konpeito (from the Portuguese word “confeito” meaning “candy”) are a small Japanese candy carefully handcrafted and shaped like confetti. Originally imported from Portugal around 1546, Japanese chefs have made these candies their own.
These Sakura Konpeito from Hara Kotobuki En recall the light pink flowers of sakura in spring. And just like blooming sakura, konpeito takes time and patience. A tiny initial “seed” of sugar is slowly rotated in a large drum while sugar syrup is gradually added to create the characteristic bumps of konpeito. It’s easy to see why these candies are called “the ‘seed’ of happiness.”
Each candy takes over 3 weeks for Hara Kotobuki En to make. Though the ingredients are simple, the process of making konpeito takes years to master the perfect shape and luster.
Ingredients:Sugar (produced in Japan), sakura flowers (from Japan), salt
Suggested uses:Enjoy as is.
SAKURA GREEN TEA LEAF
So treasured and highly beloved is sakura in Japan that no part of the flower is left unused. Even the leaves are harvested and enjoyed!
Our producer, Kanes blends sakura leaves with organicsencha and organic matcha to create an aromatic, grassy tea with surprising, fruity notes evoking the scent of spring. Kanes is based in Shizuoka Prefecture at the foot of Mt. Fuji. The area, called the “Food Capital” of Japan, boasts rich soil making it the number one producer of fruits and vegetables in Japan, and is particularly known for its quality tea production.
Ingredients:Organicsencha (green tea), pesticide-free edible sakura leaf, organic matcha
Suggested uses:For hot tea, steep 3g of tea leaves in 200-300 ml of hot water for 1 min. For cold tea, steep 10g of tea leaves in 1L of cold water for 3-6 hrs in the fridge.
SALT PICKLED SAKURA
Producer:Nature / Marui foods
In Kanagawa Prefecture, a special double-flowered variety of sakura trees known as "sekiyama" (関山) bloom. The deep pink, extra large blooms have a double layer of petals making them ideal for salt pickled sakura. These special sakura are picked by hand from mid to late April, during their very short growing season and then pickled using only salt and plum vinegar. These Salt Pickled Sakura are produced and sold by a brother duo: One brother runs Marui Foods, atsukemono (Japanese pickles) company which has been in business for over 120 years, while the other runs Nature to sell his products.
Salt Pickled Sakura have an exquisite floral flavor and are a versatile ingredient in Japanese cuisine. One common way to enjoy these blossoms are as an aromatic tea. Served to special guests or at weddings, this tea is said to bring good fortune to those who drink it.
Ingredients:Sakura, salt, plum vinegar
Suggested uses:Extremely versatile, salt pickled sakura can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. As a tea: Gently rinse off the excess salt under running water and put 2-3 flowers into a cup. Pour hot water over the flowers and watch them open up while releasing the flavor of sakura into your cup! Can also be soaked in water for 5-10 mins (depending on desired salitiness), chopped and combined with cream cheese to make a spread for bread. Can also be used in sangria, jellies, or baked into desserts. Try making our Sakura Butter Cookies, Sakura Tsukemono or Sakura Onigiri using the recipes included.
Springtime in Japan means enjoying seasonal delicacies, includingnagashi somen (lit. flowing somen). Somen noodles are served flowing down a bamboo chute with ice-cold water. Diners scoop up the slender noodles, usually less than 1 mm in diameter, with their chopsticks, before swishing the noodles in a light, refreshingdashi (fish broth) basedtsuyu dipping sauce.
These special springtime Sakura Somen noodles from Honda Shoten are made by kneading domestic sakura leaves into wheat flour produced in Japan. Honda Shoten uses a special technique to partially dry the noodles, giving them a chewy, fresh texture.
Ingredients:Wheat flour (wheat from Japan), sakura leaves, salt, vegetable pigment
Suggested uses:Boil the noodles for 90 seconds while gently stirring with chopsticks. Rinse under cold water, drain well and enjoy immediately. To make a simple tsuyu dipping sauce, combine 1 cup dashi* with ¼ cup soy sauce* and ¼ cup mirin. Store in the fridge for at least an hour until cold.
UME KONBU CHA
This Ume Konbu Cha is a savory, salty Japanese seasoning that can also be mixed with hot water and sipped on as a tea/broth. Our producer, Nagaike, was the first to develop this plum kelp “tea.” In the 1960’s, the tea was exhibited and selected at the “NHK National Invention Contest.” However, it took nearly a decade of trial and error to recreate this Ume Konbu Cha without any chemical seasonings.
This Ume Konbu Cha uses ingredients produced entirely in Japan. The kelp and beet sugar come from Hokkaido, while thespecial salt is produced in Hyogo Prefecture’s Ako City and is one of Japan’s most highly-regarded salts. Other flavors includearomatic herbal notes fromshiso (Japanese basil) and sour fruity notes from dried ume flakes made from the flesh of plums produced in Wakayama Prefecture.
Ingredients:Beet sugar, natural sea salt, yeast extract, kelp extract, kelp powder, plum vinegar extract powder, plum flesh, matcha powder, shiso powder
Suggested uses:To drink as a tea/broth, dissolve 1 tsp of powder into 150ml of hot water (or adjusted to your preferred strength). Can also be used to makeochazukeby sprinkling on a bowl of rice before pouring hot tea over top. Use as a seasoning by sprinkling on meat or vegetables before cooking, on chicken before breading and frying to makekaraage (fried chicken), fortempura, or added to pasta, eggs, or soup. Mix with thinly sliced cucumbers and a dash of salt to maketsukemono (pickled vegetables). Try making our Ume Konbu Cha Potato Salad, Chicken Ochazuke or Ume Konbu Cha Stir Fried Noodles using the recipes included.
UME “KARI KARI” CHIPS
“Kari Kari” is a colorful Japanese onomatopoeic word meaning “crispy crispy”. Our producer Ohtoneduke dries and shaves Japanese ume into thin crispy flakes to use as a seasoning. The natural acidity of the ume is complemented by the herbal flavor ofshiso (Japanese basil) and sour pickling ingredients.
The ume come from Gunma Prefecture, where Ohtoneduke is based. Gunma is known across Japan for its ume. In fact, every year, Ume Festivals are held across Gunma with some parks - like the Misato Ume Garden - boast over 100,000 ume trees which bloom in a spectacular display filling the air with their sweet fragrance.
Ingredients:Ume (Japanese plum from Japan), shiso (Japanese basil from Japan), pickling ingredients (salt, vinegar, sugar, plum vinegar, katsuobushi extract, fermented seasonings), vegetable pigment
Suggested uses:Sprinkle on rice asfurikake(Japanese seasoning), or use as a seasoning for pasta, vegetables, or eggs.