Saturday, July 13, 2013

Celery, fennel, cucumber and radish pressed salad

Celery, fennel, cucumber and radish pressed salad

The ancient Chinese believed that the seasons have a profound cyclical effect on us and we should aim to live in harmony with climatic changes.

The summer offers an abundant variety of plants and our diet should ideally reflect this.

Aim to use brightly coloured summer vegetables and fruits and combine them imaginatively.

On the hottest days, we need to balance the heat of the external environment with a cool atmosphere - eating outside under a gazebo or picnics by the river - and by serving more cooling, fresh foods, such as salads, sprouts (alfalfa, mung), cucumber, tofu and flower and leaf teas, such as mint, lime flower and chamomile.

This recipe uses a simple technique called pressing.  This involves salting the vegetables, applying pressure, draining off any excess liquid and then rinsing to remove the salt.  Salting and pressing has the effect of "cooking" the vegetables in the sense of making them more digestible, but preserves the active living enzymes.

The recipe also uses a product called ume plum seasoning, which is fermented from umeboshi plums.

The umeboshi, salt pickled plum, is one of Japan's most remarkable traditional foods, revered since ancient times both as an everyday food and a potent health tonic.  The oldest Japanese record of pickled plums is in a medical text written about one thousand years ago.

Umeboshi were used to prevent fatigue, purify water, rid the body of toxins, and cure specific diseases such as dysentery, typhoid, and food poisoning.  Slowly, extensive folklore developed about umeboshi's ability to prevent and cure certain diseases.

During the samurai era, the pickled plum was the soldier's most important field ration. It was used to flavour foods such as rice and vegetables, and its high acidity made it an excellent water and food purifier, as well as an effective antidote for battle fatigue.

Its taste has been described as the culinary equivalent of a cold shower.

Besides its dramatic flavour, the Japanese pickled plum has remarkable properties:

  • Alkalizing effect.  Regular consumption of umeboshi ensures the maintenance of a mildly alkaline pH level in the blood.
  • Antiseptic and antibiotic potency.  An antibiotic substance has been extracted from umeboshi plum which can destroy pathogens in the gastro-intestinal tract.
  • Stimulates the function of the liver.  A substance called picric acid found in umeboshi plums helps the liver to clear out artificial chemicals from the body.
  • Enhances peristaltic movement of the intestines.  A substance called catechic acid found in umeboshi plums speeds transit time through the gut, has an antiseptic effect and helps the digestion of proteins.
  • Laxative effect.  Pectic acid in the peel of umeboshi plums relaxes the muscles of the gut.

Other medicinal uses of umeboshi plums include:

  • Prevention of fatigue
  • Prevention of ageing
  • Stimulation of detoxification
  • Stimulation of appetite
  • Treatment of food poisoning
  • Treatment of hangover
  • Treatment of motion and morning sickness
  • Treatment of common cold and influenza.

In Japan, a piece of umeboshi each day is regarded as one of the best tonics available.

A variety of umeboshi-based products such as whole plums, paste or vinegar are available on the market. All of them can be used as a salt substitute in cooking, adding variety and valuable healing properties to our daily food.

In the UK you can buy ume plum seasoning in supermarkets like Sainsbury's and Waitrose and also in health food stores.



4 stalks celery, washed and finely chopped
1/2 cucumber, washed, thinly sliced and chopped in quarters
12 radishes, washed and finely chopped
1/3 bulb fennel, washed and finely sliced
Few drops ume plum seasoning
Sea salt
1 tsp apple juice concentrate
1 tsp fresh lime juice



  1. Mix cucumber and radish together, add a few drops of ume plum seasoning and leave for 30 minutes
  2. Place celery and fennel in a bowl with a few pinches of sea salt and mix together, place another bowl on top containing a heavy item, such as a bag of flour and leave for 30 minutes
  3. Rinse vegetables and drain well
  4. Combine celery, fennel, cucumber and radish and season to taste with a few drops of apple juice concentrate and fresh lime juice
  5. Serve garnished with alfalfa sprouts if available
Celery, fennel, cucumber and radish pressed salad

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