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A small tart apricot, salted and dried by the Japanese as umeboshi, a name meaning ‘dried ume’, often erroneously called a Japanese plum. The ume was originally brought to ancient Japan from China. Samurai ate them to fight off battle fatigue and it was believed that they had medicinal, cleansing and curative powers. Ume are picked before they ripen and soaked in brine and red shiso leaves until shrivelled and wrinkled. It is the shiso leaves that give the ume their characteristic deep–red hue. Umeboshi are used extensively in Japanese cuisine as a condiment, often served with rice or to make bainiku, a tart purée used in some sauces. Ume are also macerated in alcohol with rock sugar to make a liqueur, umeshu.