Plums are in season in June, and as such, the rainy month of June is called literally in Japanese “plum rain”. Grocery stores and supermarkets start displaying plums, starting from fresh green plums. With rising interest in additive-free products and food safety, many people now enjoy making plum products at home, including dried plums and plum liqueur.
The gift are we recommending this time is “ki Series Ripe Plum Syrup,” made with traditional methods by Horiguchi Noen from Wakayama Prefecture.
The syrup is made with simple ingredients—just ripe Kishu Nankoume plums, that can be harvested only for a few days at the end of June, and crystal sugar. Packaged in a beautiful glass bottle, the syrup is of course free of additives and colors. It even looks refreshing and makes a perfect gift for the summer.
Let’s see why the Ripe Plum Syrup makes such a good gift.
Usually, plum syrups are made with green plums with a refreshing plum aroma. But this ripe plum syrup is made only with ripe plums that release a sweet scent, and as soon as the bottle is opened, the rich aroma is instantly in the air. The best way to enjoy the thick, rich syrup is to have it on a hot day, diluting it with thoroughly chilled water or carbonated water, enjoying its aroma.
The other reason we recommend this ripe plum syrup as a gift is its sophisticated packaging design. The amber syrup looks beautiful with light going through it in the quadrilateral slim glass bottle that can serve as an ornament. It would make anyone happy if they receive it as a gift.
The ripe plum syrup is made in Minabe Town in Wakayama Prefecture, known as Japan’s best plum district.
Horiguchi Noen is a plum orchard that has grown plums since Japan’s Edo period (17th to 19th centuries) for generation after generation. They have 14 plum fields, growing five types of plums, the major variety being Nankoume plums. The sixth-generation owner and designated plum producer Ikuo Horiguchi takes great care of his plums to reduce stress to the trees and ships large numbers of plums every year all across Japan.
We asked his wife Chigusa how the ripe plum syrup came about.
“Since the founder’s time we have been selling plums, mostly dried plums. On the side, we make and enjoy our own plum liqueur and plum syrup. At first we were having plum syrup from green plums, but when we were in the plum orchard at the time of harvest with the smell of ripe plums in the air, we wanted many people to experience this fruity scent and decided to commercialize plum syrup made from ripe plums.”
The Nankoume plums used for the ripe plum syrup are of size 3L, large and heavy. But the plums’ ripeness evolves from moment to moment. The condition of the plums is important for delivering the right scent and taste, and it is extremely difficult to figure out the best time to harvest them. The plums are constantly being monitored for the best moment to capture the aroma, and Ikuo takes all the responsibility when harvesting.
The ripe plums that become yellow and plump on the tree are picked one by one carefully and gently by hand early in the morning before the sun starts shining on them. After being cleansed thoroughly, the plums are frozen to lock in their scent instantly. They are then put together with crystal sugar to extract their aroma and taste with osmotic pressure, and after a few days, they yield beautifully colored syrup. Apparently, the glass bottle packaging was selected to communicate the wonders of the ripe plum syrup, and to capture many people’s attention.
We asked Chigusa the best way to enjoy the ripe plum syrup.
“You can mix it with water or carbonated water, but putting a little syrup in beer to make a beer cocktail is also good. You can also make a great refreshing drink with the syrup, crushed ice and mint leaves with carbonated water. I like pouring the syrup directly on vanilla ice cream and shaved ice.”
Ikuo works in the plum orchard 365 days a year, and Chigusa had many surprises after she married him. Because they are a plum producer and observe the plum trees every day, they know their many faces.
“At the harvest time of green plums, we cannot take our eyes off the plums, because the tight, green plums are so beautiful, shining on the trees. When they start to ripen, they look softer, and a delicious smell like mangoes spreads throughout the orchard. We would be happy if we could show customers these many faces of Nankobai plums.”。
In fact, when we took Horiguchi Noen’s ripe plums in our hands, we were taken by surprise by their beautiful aroma. It was nothing like the ordinary plums we knew of.
Why not use this syrup as a gift, delivering the season’s best scent of ripe plums, filled with the passion of plum producers?
Writer : KAORI NOZAWA / Photographer : SATOSHI TACHIBANA
*Some of the images posted on our website have been provided by those whom we interviewed.