Each year I literally swoon as I cup the cherry blossom flowers in my hand gazing at their mysterious beauty set against cloudless blue sky. And each year I promise myself to make a preserved cherry blossom recipe. Each year until this one I miss the window of opportunity.
In Japan, the tradition of “Hanami” which literally translates as “flower viewing” is a practice that dates back to the sixth century Heian period. Cherry blossoms in Japan are called “Sakura”, and are a symbol of the transient nature of life, due to their short flowering time. They represent a life that is beautiful, but also temporary and impermanent.
So as not to miss the year’s flowering season I scoured my patches trying to find some flowers that were still only in bud. For the preserved cherry blossom recipe you need to gather buds that are just starting to open, you can, should you to wish pick some of the fully opened flowers, but best to try and get just the buds. You’ll also need to gather a few of the very young leaves as they are just developing.
My partner who is my harshest critic when it comes to the flavours of the food that I produce, mentioned that this recipe was one of my finest. The flavours of the preserved cherry blossom start out salty, but underneath is one of the most exquisite floral flavours she had ever eaten.
Traditionally a couple of the preserved cherry blossoms are put in a small cup, hot water is then added, and the salty-floral tea drunk as a tea ceremony. I hope you like it.
1. Wash your cherry blossom and pat dry. I used a salad spinner which worked great.
2. Put the cherry blossom into a glass bowl, sprinkle over the sea salt and mix into the cherry blossom using your hands. Try not to crush the blossom.
3. Now place a plate over the blossom and weigh down using a kilner jar filled with water for two days. After the two days is up, very quickly rinse off the salt using a sieve. They should look like this:
4. Put the rinsed cherry blossom into a clean glass bowl and pour over the ume plum vinegar or do as I did which was to use Clearspring’s Ume shiso seasoning. Leave for three days. They should look like this:
5. Finally strain off the vinegar/seasoning, gently squeezing out as much as you can without destroying the cherry blossom, then place on parchment paper on a baking tray like this:
6. Place in an oven at 70 degrees C. Check every 5 minutes as the last thing you want to do is burn your very valuable cherry blossom! They should take around 20 minutes to dry, and will end up looking like this:
7. Store in an airtight jar and they should last for years all being well.
Robin is a forager and self-taught ethnobotanist. He specialises in wild edible plants and has been running foraging courses throughout the UK since 2008. He travels extensively documenting and recording the traditional and local uses of wild food plants in indigenous cultures.