Ume (Japanese apricot) become plumper each time it rains here in Wakayama Prefecture, Japan's top production area of the fruit.
The town of Minabe is home to the renowned Nanko-ume. It was 44 years ago that the "ume ka" (ume section) was opened in the village office of Minabegawa, which later became Minabe town.
I was struck by how quickly time flies. It felt like I had admired the ume flowers in bloom only recently, but the trees were now laden with plump fruit amid green leaves, all glistening in the gentle rain.
Steamed dishes that enhance the flavor and retain the nutrients are becoming popular again. Cooking expert Atsuko Matsumoto introduces a dish with pork fillet, potatoes and umeboshi, or picked plum. "By adding katakuriko starch to the seasoning, the pork and potato will stick together through steaming and the flavor will blend nicely," she says.