The tree usually blooms sometime in January.
This year was a banner year for ume - we harvested 32.74 pounds! Last year's harvest was .... well...about 4 ume. In 2014, the harvest was 9 pounds and 2013 was 3 pounds.
Harvest took place on June 19, 2016, Father's Day. First, the fruit is fully inspected by K-9 certified inspectors. Then they were sorted by quality and size.
The selected ume are placed in a large glass container...
For 2 kilogram ume (about 90), 360 grams of salt (20% of weight of ume) and 1/4 cup vodka are added. Then a weight is placed on top - we use a container of coins! As you can see, this is June 27 and there are 90 ume plums in this jar.
In just 24 hours, this much juice has been extracted from the ume:
And one more day - June 29:
July 1 looks like this:
And here we are on July 4:
The next step is to add shiso. Shiso gives it the characteristic red-purple color. Some shiso plants are green and some are red. Others are green on the topside of the leaf and red on the bottom. This is what we had most of. Unfortunately our seeds did not germinate well this year but there were lots of little "volunteers" in the area where we grew it last year. We nurtured the shiso and were able to make two harvests, resulting in approximately 300 grams.
The shiso is salted and massaged...this was happening on July 8:
You can see the beautiful color that starts to emerge:
The shiso is added to the jar with the ume plum on July 8:
And here we are on July 30...
The next step is to remove the ume from the salty vinegar it has produced and dry them in the sun. They are placed on trays and sit outside all day, brought in at night and return to the jar, and then this process is repeated for three days.
On the third day, August 1, they stay out overnight.