Puckery, astringent and strangely satisfying after the initial impact on my palate; umeboshi plums are a type of pickled/salted Japanese plum.
The Ume plum is a particular variety of plum, actually more closely related to the apricot, that is native to Japan. It can now, however, be found in appropriate climates around the world. The plums are typically harvested in summer and then packed in salt and salt cured for several months. They are tangy and tart and definitely enliven the palate.
From a culinary perspective, umeboshi plums are typically eaten as a condiment or an accompaniment to a meal or tea. They can also be added to soups, stews and other dishes to provide a more complex flavor. I like to eat a small amount of umeboshi plum with scrambled eggs or even on toast. It jazzes everything up and wakes up my taste buds and my tummy.
From a health perspective, umeboshi plums are considered stimulating in traditional medicine. They stimulate digestion and gastrointestinal motility and help remove toxins from the body.
They are a decent source of vitamins and minerals; providing vitamins C and A, and minerals like iron and potassium. Studies on the umeboshi plum suggest that they are antioxidant helping to decrease oxidative stress in the body. They are anti-inflammatory, helping to decrease systemic inflammation and ailments that result for inflammation. Umeboshi’s are also antibacterial, with research suggesting they can help significantly in eliminating candida. They contribute to gastrointestinal health and in turn increase immune function. Umeboshi’s are proof that good things come in small packages with a little bit going a long way.
Caveat: be sure to read the ingredients, newer ways of processing umeboshi include preservatives and food coloring that are better left alone. Traditional salt curing ingredients are just plums and salt; they are the ones you want to go for. They will be faded in color rather than bright red.