Apr 21, 2008

What is Dried Seedless Ume?

Yesterday we went to Baldwin's Sweet Shop, Aiea to satisfy a Shave Ice craving. If you have never been to Baldwin's, it is located in the Waimalu Shopping Center right off of Kamehameha Hwy in the strip mall next to Zippy's, Leonard's Jr. malasada and a bunch of other favorite local shops. Baldwin's sells dried fruit & seeds, candies, cookies...and all sorts of other sweets. Three doors down used to be the Baldwin's Shave Ice shop but I'm happy to say that the sweet shop now includes the Shave Ice shop so visitors can get shave ice and seeds at the same time.

(See review on Yelp)

Hard to ignore, colorful, handwritten signs at the shop advertised "Dried Seedless Ume". Curiousity got the better of me and I tasted a sample....MMMmmm!!! Very soft, not too salty, not sweet, not sour, not like the ume you eat with rice. Sorta like soft seedless cherry seeds but more mild. So I purchased a 4 oz. bag at a whopping $4.07 with tax. What an indulgence!

Knowing that I could pop a few in my mouth without thinking (and so could my daughter), I decided to analyze what I was eating. Here are the ingredients: Plum, Sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sorbitol, Citric Acid, Aspartame, Salt. Phenylketornurics: contains Phenylalanine. And here is a simplyfied version of what I have learned about these ingredients.

Plum: The Japanese plum or ume is more like an apricot and is more sour than a western plum or apricot.

Sugar: Crystalline sweetener or preservative.

High Fructose Corn Syrup: A combination of fructose (sugar found in fruit/honey) and sucrose (cane sugar) treated with an enzyme that results in a sweeter product.

Sorbitol: A sugar alcohol that occurs especially in stone fruits and is obtained by chemical reaction. It is used as a humectant (keeps food moist) , a softener, a sweetener and laxative. Ingesting too much sorbitol may lead to abdominal pain, gas and diarrhea.

Citric Acid: A natural preservative used to add a sour taste to food and soft drinks. Excessive consumption may destroy tooth enamel.

Aspartame: Artificial sweetener used in many diet foods and soft drinks and marketed under names such as NutraSweet and Equal. Although controversial, some say Aspartame is related to such health risks as brain tumors and lymphoma.

Salt: Used as a preservative and also the most popular food seasoning. It is produced in many forms such as sea salt, table salt (refined) or iodized salt. Over consumption can lead to high blood pressure and many other health risks.

Phenylketonurics- Contains Phenylalanine : Okay this was a hard one for me because I can't pronounce or spell it correctly without being very very careful but I have learned something interesting and valuable. Here is a simplistic explanation: Phenylalanine is an essential acid found in protein such as eggs, milk and meat. Phenylketonurics is listed as a warning to those with a metabolic disorder called Phenylketonuria, or PKU. Those with PKU will not adequately metabolize the phenylalanine in his/her body thus leading to major health problems. In it's synthesized form, phenylalanine is found in aspartame and some are convinced that aspartame is the cause of many neurological problems. Please read more about this topic at Sweet Poison.

So where does this leave me with my delicious 4 oz. package of Dried Seedless Ume when basically a lot of the things added to the dried ume is bad stuff? Oh well, out of sight, out of mind. Kids can't see it and so can't I but I can think about it....MMMmmm!....and tell you how that salty, sour smell will make your mouth water.

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