It’s spring in Japan, the time where flora blooms, creating the most spectacular views. It is around this time of the year that brings fans from all around the world and the most spoken about event in Japan, the “Cherry Blossom” chase!
Cherry blossoms are the flowers of several types of genus Prunus trees and the Japanese cherry is also known as Sakura. Cherry trees are closely related to other Prunus trees such as almond, peach, plum and apricot.
Cherry blossom trees grow widely in the northern hemisphere all around the world. They are planted in parks across numerous countries, to name few: Germany, China, Netherlands, Canada and Brazil - owing to the influence of the Japanese community outside of Japan and the USA. India, surprisingly, caught my attention too, as cherry blossoms are an attraction there as well. They are known for growing the Himalayan cherry and sour cherry, which are notably grown in Himalayan states Jammu and Kashmir, West Bengal, Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling as many other regions. Definately put this picturesque mountain scene on your travel list!
There is a centuries old practice of socialising, or picnicking if you like, under blooming sakura or ume trees which dates back to the Nara Period (710 - 194) in Japan, known as “Hanami”.
But I digress - we’re here to talk about flavours, so on with it! The cherry blossoms and cherry leaves are edible. Let’s have a look into its culinary use in Japan.
“Sakurayu or Sakurachu” are cherry blossoms which are pickled in salt and ume vinegar. Cherry blossom tea is considered very special and is drunk during weddings instead of green tea as it is believed to represent new beginnings. Lastly, the Oshima cherry leaves are also pickled in salted water and used within different desserts. Please be careful though, as they contain coumarin, which is toxic in large doses.
40 ml Cherry tea infused gin 20 ml Umeshu liqueur 20 ml freshly squeezed lime juice 5 ml sugar syrup (or more depending on you)
1. Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, add as much ice as possible, hard shake and double strain into a chilled sour/martini glass.
2. Garnish with cherry blossom or any other edible flowers available to you.