These national fruits of Japan, but little-known elsewhere, fall near to apricot in form, color and size. This is the 'pickled plum' accompaniment to sushi and sashimi, an indispensable part of the Japanese cuisine. One only among its ancient varieties is counted as palatable in its raw state... all are intended for brining, then coloring purple with shiso leaf. Strange to relate, that most ume consumed in Japan are grown here in California! The earliest of all fruit trees to bloom (within two weeks of winter solstice) its blossoms are the warrant of springtime and figure in winter-end festivals. More commonly grown outside Japan as an ornamental flowering tree, few Americans recognize the fruits and their place in accounting our balance of payments!