Holidays and traveling can sometimes play havoc with well laid dietary resolutions.  Fortunately, Ume (plum) products from Japan are your best friends against a host of haunting upsets!  The holidays cram into a short spell more celebrating and indulging that the rest of the year combined.

But if I happen to overindulge during the holidays (or whenever there is a good excuse), I’ve got a plum up my sleeve that’s a cure –all.

Technically it’s an apricot, but everyone calls it a plum, or Ume.  When picked in salt and purple shiso leaves, it becomes umeboshi. Concentrates of the immature plum are available as Plum Balls, Plum Pearls, Plum Extract (Bainiku Ekisu) and Plum Granules.  Ume has an amazing ability to balance and brace the system.  The olding existing Chinese medical texts lists Prunus Mume as an important medicine.  It has extensive documentation(some ancient, some recent) showing its effectiveness in cleanly evacuating radioactive strontium 90 from the body, in reliving coughs and nausea, reducing fevers, as an astringent, and as an antibiotic against dysentery, supportive staphylococcus, and more.  Ume is highly effective in ameliorating morning sickness, hypersensitivity, motion sickness, herpes, jet lag, stiffness, hangover, stress, headaches, insomnia, fatigue and just about anything else you can name.

Ume’s amazing……..A small dose of plum concentrate is said to neutralize the acids created from eating a sugar laden piece of chocolate cake.  This is substantiated by the experience of countless people practicing macrobiotics.

Here’s why it works.  This oriental plum has at least double the amounts of protein, minerals, fat and ash as other fruits, are high in calcium, iron and acidity.  But not relative to Ume!

100 Grams

Edible portion            Calcium        Iron            Acidity

Strawberry                   14 mg          17mg          15mg

Ume Plum                        65 mg         130 mg       90.4mg

Juice from immature Ume, when concentrated, has 53.6 percent citric acid and 19.2 percent iron.  This concentration of citric acid and minerals make Ume a strongly medicinal food.

Today many people have a difficult time absorbing minerals like calcium and iron.  Citric acid combines readily with the mineral content of foods present in the digestive tract and creates an easy-to-absorb mineral salt.

Citric acid breaks down the lactic acids in our blood that cause fatigue and stress.  This explains why athletes instinctively chew on lemons are highest in citric acid.  But compare to Ume!

100 Grams Edible Portion                         Citric Acid

Lemon                                                             2g

Umeboshi                                                        5g

Plum extract                                                   53g

The blood of a healthy person stays at the slightly alkaline level of pH 7.3, which will not host infections and viruses.  When the blood tends toward acidity, symptoms such as irritatiability or hypersensitivity occur.  The blood of those with headaches or dizziness, stiff shoulders, insomnia, or those who have stomach cancer or diabetes is acidic.  Ume and umeboshi help the system adjust to slightly alkaline pH level.

If the stomach is weak, or if the secretion of stomach fluids is retarded through improper diet and lifestyle, germs find their way into the small intestine.  This can be the take-off site for illness. Ume products contain a natural agent called perilhidehyde that, when ingested, helps clear the intestinal trace of undesirable bacteria.  Citric acid, also found in Ume, enhances the function of the liver and gall bladder.

A common food craving during pregnancy is pickles.  The craving may be a sign of a lack in the woman’s blood of adequate calcium for the developing fetus.  The sour flavor draws calcium from her teeth and bones to make it available to the baby.  This explains the old adage, “Every pregnancy costs a tooth.”  The citric acid of Ume heightens calcium retention from our goods.  In addition, Ume is a superior source of readily assailable calcium.  Many women enjoy Ume (particularly the extract form) as a remedy for morning sickness and as an agent to aid in the absorption of calcium.

For those times when you slip from a healthful diet and lifestyle, when you’re traveling when your resistance is low or when you feel “off,” you might allow Ume to assist.  Ume and umeboshi products are available at quality natural food stores in the following forms:

UMEBOSHI are the whole plums pickled for over a year with salt and shiso leaves.  They are delicious in salad dressing, rubbed onto corn on the cob, and cooked into vegetables, grains and even soup in place of salt or shoyu.  You’ll find many specific uses for it in macrobiotic cook books.

UME VINEGAR is technically not vinegar but rather the liquid that rises to the surface of fermenting umeboshi.  It smells like fresh cherries and tastes like vinegar; however, it is salty.  I use Ume vinegar as a shoyu substitute when I want a refreshing light flavor as opposed to the heartier shoyu flavor.

UME PASTE is the pureed flesh of the pickled plum (umeboshi) without its seed.  It is convenient to use in cooking.

PLUM CONCENTRATE (bainiku ekisu), available in pure concentrate form, has the texture and color of tar.  It’s made from the juice of the immature Ume.  It, as well as the concentrate products described below, is not a pickled product and contains no added salt.  Dip out a pea-sized portion with the tip of a chopstick, place it on your tongue and you’ll pucker and grimace like never before.  It tastes like the essence of 50 sour lemons.  Some folks enjoy the concentrate straight.  Most mix it with tea.

Ume has extensive documentation showing its effectiveness in relieving coughs and nausea, reducing fevers as an astringent and as an antibiotic.

Thank you Rebecca Wood author of “The Whole Foods Encyclopedia”, one of my favorite reference books for many years.

Patricia teaches Vegan Cooking Class

7 thoughts on “Umeboshi

  1. Melinda Danos

    Thank you for this informative page. My daughter is pregnant and suffering tremendously with acid reflux. Her diet needs much improvement and I worry that her obgyn has prescribed nexium. I promised her I’d find something better and when researching today, I came across baniku ekisu. It seems much safer to use than nexium. Is this something she can use daily? Please advise


  2. Pingback: Watch Out For Falling Coconuts |

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