Japan is not only famous for all-year-round sushi or premium seasonal fruits, but also for every April and May, people are craving for Sakura, not for sightseeing but because it makes the best flavor ever!
Sakura petals after salted and processed, have a very unique flavor (just like the uniqueness of rose!). This authentic taste of Japan with a subtle flowery scent and flavor are made into various kind of products and dishes. Sakura petals and Sakura leaves can be purchased in supermarkets in season. Oshima cherry blossoms are the preferred variety for cooking because they are soft, nevertheless, they shouldn’t be eaten in large quantities. They contain coumarin, a natural substance that’s toxic in large enough doses.
Sakura are primarily used as a flavor, light pink food coloring and garnish. Examples of sakura foods include some of these below:
1. Salted Sakura petals and packaged sakura leaves
Japanese started pickling them in salt and ume plum vinegar in order to be able to enjoy the Sakura flavor throughout the whole year. Many households with garden and cherry trees used to make their own pickled sakura. Nowadays most people will rather buy pickled sakura flowers from one of the few companies who still make this a product.
Closeup of some cherry blossoms straight out of the jar. As you can see they are quite salty, so for most uses you need to soak them in water for a bit.
The main use for the preserved leaves is as edible wrappers for sakura-mochi, a traditional sweet (wagashi) that is only available in early to mid spring.
2. Sakura tea
Take one or two flowers for each cup of tea and remove as much salt of the flower as you like before using them. Pour hot water over it and you get a light colored tea. It has a light scent of sakura flowers and an intense flavor of cherry blossoms. Although edible the flowers remaining in the tea usually are not eaten.
A common variation is to add a flower or two to green tea when pouring hot water over the leaves. The result is a naturally flavored green tea.
3. Sakura wagashi: mochi, daifuku, dango, etc
Mochi is a Japanese rice cake that’s nothing more than a sticky rice known as Mochigome that has been crushed with a giant mallet. Add sakura petals and you’ve got Sakura Mochi.
Sakura daifuku is a kind of mochi cake that has sweet bean paste filled wrapped in a sakura leaf. The salty-sour taste of the leaf is a perfect foil to the sweetness of the cake inside.
Hanami dango is a dessert of three Japanese rice dumplings on a stick. One is unflavored, one is sakura flavored and one is flavored with matcha or yomogi.
This is a kind of tea made simply by floating a blossom or two in plain boiling water. The clear, faintly pink tea is slightly salty and slightly sour, and makes an interesting change from green tea.
This is the most direct sakura taste experience apart from eating the petals directly.
5. Sakura as seasonal flavor in ice-cream, drinks, candy, etc
From mid February to early March, Starbucks start selling their only-in Japan Coffee flavor: Sakura Cherry Latte, which excites people as always!
Or the luxury Haagen-Dazs ice-cream:
And other snacks that can be found at convenience store of supermarkets:
Thumbnail image is from Flickr