Ume (Japanese apricots)
In season during the summer months between July and August, ume (pronounced as oo-may) trees produce fruit around June. There are several varieties of ume including the small Koushu-koume, and the large Nanko-ume and Shirakaga-ume.
The sourness of ume is due to organic acids such as citric acid and malic acid. Some anticipated effects of citric acid are those of promoting energy metabolism to quicken recovery from fatigue, anti-aging and appetite-stimulating. Also, as citric acid has an antibacterial effect, it is said to prevent spoilage of food, and aid with stomach issues. Ume also contain vitamins and minerals.
Connoisseur selection / storage
Select ume that are not damaged, and are plump and juicy. Use young green unripe ume for liqueur (ume-shu) and juice. For umeboshi (pickled Japanese apricots) use ripe fruit with slightly yellow peel. As freshness is important, be sure to prepare ume liqueur and/or umeboshi right away. For umeboshi, select those which are approximately all the same size and even in color and texture. Store umeboshi prepared using traditional methods at room temperature, and those prepared using salt in a refrigerator.
Ume are recommended for pickling, liqueurs, and jams. Ume pickled in soy sauce are easily prepared, delicious and great to have on hand. Since the pit of young, green, unripe ume contains the toxic substance amygdalin, which generates harmful hydrogen cyanide, avoid eating green ume. Umeboshi eliminate the odor of meat and fish, and are delicious when added to boiled and grilled dishes, rice dishes as well as sauces and dressings.