Sakura-Zuke: Japanese Pickled Cherry Blossoms
As with other countries, there is a wide range of pickles products in Japan. Among those, especially pickled Ume plums “Umeboshi (梅干し)” is well recognized in the world.
With beautiful white or pink blossoms, “Ume (梅)” is one of the trees that represent Japan’s winter season, but I think the tree most loved by Japanese people is the cherry tree “Sakura (桜)”.
As a matter of fact, while most of us Japanese annually enjoy cherry blossom viewing in springtime, not so many Japanese go to see Ume blossoms during the winter season.
Like this, we love Sakura, and thus there are various products using cherry blossoms in Japan, which include “Sakura-Zuke (桜漬け)” I introduce here.
Actually, like Umeboshi plums made from Ume fruit, there is a traditional Japanese pickle made of Sakura cherry blossoms, which is called “Sakurazuke (桜漬け)” or “Oukazuke (桜花漬け)”.
Incidentally in the names, both “Sakura (桜)” and “Ouka (桜花)” has the meaning of cherry blossoms, while “Zuke (漬け)” is the Japanese word for pickle.
Sakura-Zuke is made of cherry blossoms that are around three-quarters in bloom, which are pickled in salt or a liquid seasoning made from salt and Ume vinegar.
The salted cherry blossoms can be eaten as they are, but they are often used as a garnish or topping in dishes and drinks, such as Onigiri rice balls, Anpan buns, cakes, cookies, and Sake rice wine.
The basic way to use Sakura-Zuke is very simple: Just put some petals of the pickled cherry blossom on top of some food or drink, and you can enjoy it with a touch of grace.
Lastly, here are 2 representative examples of how to use the salted cherry blossoms.
When we Japanese have a formal marriage interview, celebrations, or ceremonies, “Sakura-Yu (桜湯)”, the hot water with Sakura-Zuke pickles, is sometimes prepared.
Sakura-Zuke is typically used as a garnish in Sake rice wine. The Sake is called “Sakurazake (桜酒)”.