Friday, June 19, 2009

Viva! Anthocyanin -1-

Fresh Yamamomo (Japanese Bayberries)

Before I talk about my terrible two days with this anthocyanin-rich fruit, I think I should apologize. My "challenges" series may be quite misleading or unfair because they are digests of stressful incidents only and do not include positive aspects, such as what mom is perfectly capable of doing or what we enjoy doing together at this point.

Honestly, I started that series just to make my adjustment easier and to provide fun(?) reading for those who want to know what life in rural Japan is like. Nothing more. Having a little mental health training background, I would have been more fair and thorough in giving information IF my intention were to discuss mom's condition and treatment on this blog. But it wasn't, because this is basically a foodblog, after all, and I want to keep it that way.

Nevertheless, I'm adding a little more information here for those who are worried about my family because of my unfair input. Mom is not disoriented yet, and still capable of organizing and running a tea ceremony event. She lists up all the necessary equipments correctly (means matching the ranks and seasonal themes correctly), packs all of them, crossing out the listed items one by one and makes lottery to give participants thank-you gifts before they go home. Sometimes she collects necessary fee and distributes photos when necessary. She often does that all by herself, and so far never forgot to bring anything to the event. (Sometimes sorted the photos wrong, though. :p) Oh, and she has medical checkup every year.

Yes, here in Japan, ARICEPT is available, even for MCI patients (if the doctor thinks it's necessary), but IN BIG CITIES. In a very rural place, the issue is if there is any hospital at all in town. But it's possible to see Japanese diagnostic test for Alzheimer's disease online as well as the limitations and side effects of the drugs used for treatment. In fact I had an experience of taking a senior to a doctor for testing and being involved in her case conference at a facility years ago. It was amazing how the diagnosis... Well, it's a long story, so perhaps I'll write about this whole thing in more details somewhere else someday.

Anyway, let's go back to yamamomo. Dad and I harvested about 4 kilograms of them in dad's orchard on day 1, which filled this big basket in the top photo and a big plastic bag. We really had to work hard, and it was hilarious. Why? Because the yamamomo tree was planted in a VERY inconvenient location. Dad's orange orchard is terraced on the hillside, and the flat parts are obviously meant for the orange trees only. OK. I'll reveal my artistic talent (Ahem!) to show you where the yamamomo tree was and how we harvested the berries.

Don't laugh. My family has been harvesting berries from this tree in this way from two generations ago. The berries are high up in the tree and the tree is weak, so we tie a net like this and one person climbs up a nearby, bigger tree and shakes off the berries. What was hilarious this time was that the net was not in the right angle, though we spent hours to set it, and nearly all the berries bounced on it and jumped over my head to fall on the ground! LOL

But that was not the hardest part. When we got home, dad said that yamamomo goes bad so fast so they must be kept in the fridge, and if no space in there, the berries should be eaten or cooked right away. Of course there was very little space in the fridge, so I had to start making jam with them right after dinner, alone, though I was already exhausted...

It was the most traumatizing jam-making experience in my life, honestly. I picked a recipe on a Japanese website, which called for 5 kilograms of yamamomo and said that the berries should be washed carefully and thoroughly. Give me a break. It's already 8 pm. I measured only 2.5 kgs of them, but my back started hurting when I finished washing them. Then I boiled the berries until soft, and seeded them by pushing against a coarse strainer with a wooden spatula. The instruction said that the mash should be strained through a strainer, but it was too fiber-rich that I gave up real soon. Instead, I processed it in an electric blender for 15 to 30 seconds.

Then cooking. The recipe said, "Don't cook it too long over low heat, or the color would turn dirty." Fine. But no matter how long I cooked, the jam didn't thicken at all. The wooden spatula and dishcloth were colored red. When it was past 10 pm, I saved half of the runny mixture as "yamamomo sauce," and threw in a bunch of pectin into the rest in order to put an end to this agony and go to bed. Yeah, the jam was set -- finally, and overly...

Next morning, the jam was too thick that it almost broke the spoon inserted in it, and the color was as dark as Worcestershire sauce. And it gave me a headache after I ate it. It was overwhelmingly sweet, with a hint of sourness of wild berries. AHHHHHHHHHHH....

So, dear readers, be ready for another jam pound cake post coming soon.

... to be cont'd ...


Rinshinomori said...

I had a similar experience several years ago with harvested satsuma plums from our yard.

Normally I don't have problems making jam with them and they make one of the best jams around, but for some reason one time I tried to make jam with them, they turned our like your experience. It was very slow in thickening and the color turned from beautiful purple red to disgusting dark brown color from overcooking. The taste was not very good either with a hint of burned taste. Yeck!

Never had yamamomo. Very pretty fruit.

Anonymous said...

hi! ok i'm not one of those who thinks there is anything wrong with your mum. Maybe she's just feeling irritable or is trying to get your/dad's attention in some opposite method? Maybe the food hoarding is due to phobia of having very little to eat when she was young, so with the co-op around... i would be tempted too ; )

sounds like you do have your good moments too. your drawing is really cute & very clear! that outing sounded like fun except the slaving in the kitchen bit.

can i ask something? very curious about what people eat normally where you live. you post quite a bit of western style food & with the fridge FULL of frozen gyoza, i didnt really want to ask what your family eats normally. (hee hee!)

i've been told a normal japanese diet is very healthy. what would that be and if you are free one day & dont mind posting, could you educate me on a receipe or two? i've been trying a few simple receipes for the sesame spinach & the meat &veg dish w egg in soup, then i ran out of ideas. after eating the same things for days in a row, i concluded there must be more easy receipes around.


Anonymous said...

awww, i simply think your mum is soo cute! When my mum is angry or you can say having a strike, she eats that makes her a total opposite..

I love your drawing!!! you're talented in many different ways =)! i wanted to copy the drawing and put it on my desktop background, can i?


Grace said...

I find reading your blog very entertaining, but mostly love your photos (and now your drawings) and your recipes most of all.

Yamamomo = mountain peach?

I have never seen a bayberry let alone eaten one. They look scrumptious!

I hope someone got a video of you two harvesting. I'd like to see bouncing berries. : )

David said...

I like reading about your challenges with your's VERY interesting, so I hope you are not feeling worried about blogging about that. Your entire blog is interesting. It always makes me think about living in the country vs living in the city. I live in Yokohama and work in Tokyo. Sometimes all the concrete brings me down. I wonder if I could live in the countryside. I think I could if the countryside was near the where you live.

cocopuff1212 said...


I LOVE your illustration!

K and S said...

I didn't realize that those yamamomo could be made into jam! I hope things with your mom get better.

obachan said...

How the jam turns out is often unpredictable, isn't it? Maybe some people would say that's why it's interesting -- and I may agree when I make small amount of it. But after a disappointing result with several kilograms of fruit... :(

I do think that something is going on in her psyche now, but yes, we do have good moments, too.

Some posts about our popular local dishes are coming soon, but may or may not with their recipes. The problem is, we all use eye-measurement when cooking traditional Japanese dishes, so it's hard for me to write recipes. And the seasoning my parents are used to is very different from Japanese standard. Honestly I don't know if I can call it healthy, because they make everything too salty that I can't eat. And instead of using regular dashi or dashi powder, my parents save heads and bones of fish after making sashimi and use them for simmered dishes. That makes everything so fishy that even I have problem sometimes. Then why could I post the recipes of the food that I can't eat? So, please give me some time... I'll try and pick appropriate ones.

Oh, let me know when she gets angry next time. I'll invite her to our house to have meals with. Finally our fig season has started and most summer veggies are ready, including my zucchini! WE NEED HELP!

Feel free to use the drawing. But I didn't erase the pencile drawing carefully so it doesn't look very good when enlarged. If you don't mind that, it's OK with me. :)

In Japan, the Chinese characters for yamamomo are, as you say, mountain 山 and 桃 peach. But in China, it's called (written)楊梅, I heard.

Yeah, I wish I had someone videotape it.

I'm so happy to hear that you're interested in the life in the country. Maybe, if you keep reading this blog, you might learn some negative aspects of our life here. But you might enjoy discovering something new and/or different.
Hope you keep coming back. :)

Thanks! :D

K & S;
These days almost anything can made into jam, I guess. I even heard about kome (rice) jam, onion jam and nasu jam. Amazing.

Grace said...

When you say nasu do you mean eggplant?? Hmmm... I guess I shouldn't judge it until I try it.

I know very little Japanese. And I know almost no kanji. I love that your program can write kanji. Cool.

Implosion said...

Hahaha.... Obachan, your cartoon drawing was so cute and funny.

I love your posts about the journey each food takes as it becomes a finished product. In this case, the Yamamomo jam.

obachan said...

Yeah, eggplant. In fact, eggplant has no distinctive bitterness or anything and it's slightly sweet when grilled, so I guess it's not a terrible idea to make jam with it... but I don't know if I want to "buy" some. (I wouldn't mind just trying, but buying... Mmmmm....)

Thanks. I've been trying to show both fresh ingredients and finished dishes because fresh food including seafood looks so nice and they're darn photogenic! :D

Anonymous said...

thanks Obachan! haha noted about your parents different cooking methods. = ) you have been living away from them for a long time. its ok about the receipes - only if possible. its very nice to look at your pictures by itself as you take very nice photos.



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