Cooking and Baking With Sakura - Edible Cherry Blossoms

culture food sakura tradition

A trip to Japan to see the cherry blossom? Who doesn't dream of it? When the cherry trees in Japan unfurl their delicate petals, the country is transformed into a sea of white and pink. The cherry blossom, or sakura, is not only a breathtaking natural spectacle, but also an important cultural highlight that has been celebrated in Japan for centuries. Preferably with a hanami festival under the blossoming trees. People eat, laugh and drink. But the cherry blossom season is not just an occasion for a picnic, it also plays a major role in Japanese cuisine. Every year, it is the inspiration for a variety of seasonal sweets, snacks and drinks. Sakura can also be used for cooking and baking. Today we answer the most important questions about edible cherry blossoms.

Hanami - Picnic Under Cherry Trees

The ritual at cherry blossom time in Japan is the same every year: Parks and gardens fill up with people picnicking under the blossoming cherry trees at a so-called hanami, enjoying the delicate sight of the blossoms and, of course, competing to see who can take the most beautiful picture for social media. A patch of grass or a bench is often reserved early in the morning for the best spots. The atmosphere is exuberant and cheerful, partly due to the abundance of alcohol.

The tradition of hanami dates back to the 8th century. At that time, nobles did not use the sakura season for a picnic, but to write poems in the open air. It was only when feudal lord Toyotomi Hideyoshi organized a large festival in 1598 in honour of the cherry blossom and entertained his guests with extravagant food and drink that the custom changed. From then on, hanami was firmly associated with food and drink.

Sakura in the Kitchen: Seasonal Sweets and Drinks

During the cherry blossom season, the shelves of Japanese stores are full of products that capture the delicate and floral notes of sakura. From sweets to drinks, there are a variety of treats that use cherry blossoms and petals as an ingredient. Pink rice cakes with a filling of sweet bean paste and sakura tea are just a few examples.

Hanami dango is a delicacy that has enjoyed great popularity in Japan during the cherry blossom season since the 16th century. These are round mochi rice dumplings on skewers in three colors: pink, white and green. They represent the progression of the cherry blossom. First the pink buds appear, which then unfold into white blossoms before only green leaves remain on the tree at the end. They are dyed with sakura or shiso for the pink dumplings and with mugwort or matcha tea for the green ones.

Foto: Shoma Suzuki, FlickrCC BY-SA 2.0

Sakura mochi, rice cakes made from Japanese sticky rice, which are wrapped in a pickled cherry leaf and decorated with a salted cherry blossom, are also eye-catching.

But it's not all sweet. Savory dishes such as rice balls and sushi are also given a very special touch with salted cherry blossoms or sakura vinegar. Which brings us to an important question: what does sakura actually taste like?

Cooking and Baking With Cherry Blossoms: Frequently Asked Questions

Do you fancy cooking or baking with sakura yourself, but have questions? We answer everything you need to know about eating cherry blossoms.

What Do Sakura Cherry Blossoms Taste Like?

The typical sakura in Japan are ornamental cherries that do not bear fruit. Instead, the young blossoms are harvested and usually pickled in salt and/or vinegar and then dried to preserve them. The blossoms themselves taste subtly floral and more like almonds than cherries. Salted cherry blossoms in particular should be soaked in water before use to wash off the salt and bring out their unique flavor.

Is It Safe to Use Cherry Blossoms for Cooking and Baking? Are Cherry Blossoms Poisonous?

You should not eat raw cherry blossoms as they contain substances that can turn into hydrocyanic acid during digestion and are therefore poisonous. The situation is different with pickled and dried sakura. You can use these in small quantities without hesitation, as the preservation process reduces the toxic content.

Where Can You Buy Cherry Blossom Ingredients Online?

The use of cherry blossoms in the kitchen offers a wide range of possibilities for creating creative and delicious dishes and desserts. From cherry blossom macarons and sakura pudding to the tricolor hanami dango, cooking with cherry blossoms brings you a little closer to Japan. You can usually only get the right ingredients, such as salted sakura or pickled cherry leaves, in a Japanese supermarket. At MYCONBINI, you can browse our product range online and easily order cherry blossom ingredients to your home. We also have matching mochi rice flour and green tea powder for authentic homemade hanami dango.

Older Post Newer Post

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published