EDIBLE SAKURA Blossoms & Leaves

Mar 16, 2021 | Recipes

Salt-Cured Cherry Blossoms & Leaves

The blossoms and leaves of certain varieties of sakura are made edible by preserving them in salt, in a process known as shio-zuké. Deeply colored yaezakura blossoms are especially prized. When it comes to salt-curing leaves, however, pale-petaled Somei Yoshino are preferred.

Cherry leaves, and to a lesser extent the flowers, contain coumarin, a chemical compound that accounts for the distinctive sweet cherry aroma found in many plants (including cinnamon bark and chamomile). Consumed in large quantities, coumarin can be mildly toxic to humans, though many practitioners of kampōyaku, Japan’s herbal medicine, make use of coumarin’s anticoagulant properties.

The most common use of salt-cured cherry blossoms is to make a savory, tealike broth called sakura yu (桜湯) that is often served at wedding receptions. Both blossoms and leaves are also used in a wide variety of confections and savory dishes, too.


Sakura no Shio-zuké...  A quirk in the reading of calligraphy makes 桜葉 (CHERRY TREE LEAVES) sakuraba… while 桜花 (CHERRY BLOSSOM FLOWERS) are ōka.

Commercially prepared salt-cured blossoms and leaves are sold in vacuum-sealed bags; the blossoms are sometimes sold in glass jars. Aroma dissipates quickly after opening so it is best to transfer unused blossoms or leaves to a container that can be sealed tightly. Refrigerate after opening.

Want to try making your own salt-cured ōka and sakuraba?

The biggest challenge will be to find fresh cherry blossoms and leaves that have not been exposed to chemical sprays or other toxic substances (such as exhaust fumes from cars and trucks from highways).

If you can source uncontaminated FLOWERS, DOWNLOAD INSTRUCTIONS here.

If you can source uncontaminated LEAVES,  DOWNLOAD INSTRUCTIONS here.

SWEETS made with Salt-Cured Sakura

Both traditional Japanese wagashi (sakura mochi, upper right) and contemporary western-style confections (logroll cakes, montblan and flan) can be made with salt-cured flowers and leaves.

SAVORIES made with Salt-Cured Sakura

Enjoy a wide range of savory dishes prepared with salt-cured blossoms and leaves. Upper left corner: slices of seabass placed over salted cherry leaves and topped with salt-cured blossoms are enclosed in parchment before being steamed; top row center, an obentō featuring sakura gohan (rice seasoned with salt-cured blossoms); top row right, sticky rice-enclosed fish topped with salt-cured leaves is steamed and sauced; bottom row left, soba noodles tossed with broccoli rabe and salted flowers; bottom center, salted sakura-pickled turnips; bottom right, chirashi-zushi that includes bamboo shoots and salt-cured sakura.

Download recipe for Cherry-Steamed Fish

Download recipe for Turnip Quick-Pickle with Sakura Salt

Pom Pom Sushi

Pom Pom Sushi

Pom Pom Sushi Temari-Zushi 手まり寿司 Like many frugal Japanese women who managed households in the early and mid 20th century, my mother-in-law, Kiyoko Andoh, practiced thrift in and out of the kitchen. She saved bits and pieces of cloth, turning them into quilted...

Aku Nuki and Kogomi

Aku Nuki and Kogomi

KOGOMI こごみ・屈み Fiddlehead of the ostrich fern; Matteuccia struthiopteris What the Japanese call kogomi is commonly known in North America as fiddlehead ferns; they can be found in many parts of Canada, New England, the Midwest and the Pacific Northwest. In Japan,...



ONI wa SOTO          FUKU wa UCHI Throw out the ogres!      Bring in Good Fortune!節分 SETSUBUN means “break between seasons” and such breaks occur many times during the year. However, today Japan celebrates the setsubun break that comes early in February and...



おでん ODEN Various ingredients find their way into the belly-warming stew known as oden. Most versions include myriad sausage-like items made from surimi (fish and seafood ground to a paste). Some of these are deep-fried while others are boiled, roasted, grilled or...