123 FARM BLOG
June 23, 2020
Introducing Maesil Syrup
123 Farm, like everyone else, has been hit by 2020 in ways that no one could ever have anticipated. We were particularly sorry to have to cancel our festivals, and other projects have also had to be put on hold. But even so, work on the land never ceases.
Our lettuces grew very quickly this year and were almost too pretty to harvest; there were 3000 pepper plants that were eager to take up residence in our soil; and the weeds wasted no time in taking over our fields. None of us noticed the time flying by as spring rushed busily in and we tried to keep up with it.
Our most recent project: harvesting and processing the thousands of little green and yellow plums yielded by about 150 Maesil (Korean Plum) Trees on the farm.
Maesil—officially called “prunus mume,” but most commonly known as the Korean plum or the Japanese apricot—is popular in East Asia for both its flower and its fruit. The first blossoms typically appear around the third week of January. During this time, the bees take advantage of our orchard as the early part of the season comes with scarcity of food for them. Though fruits are typically harvested throughout June and July, our Maesil fruits have always been ready for picking in May. We wonder if it’s because of our California sun and climate.
Because the little green plums are too tart and bitter to consume by themselves, they must go through a fermentation process to produce an extract widely enjoyed by the people of Korea. Immediately after the fruits are harvested, they are hand washed and packed snuggly, with organic sugar, into traditional, extremely large, Korean ceramic pots. They are covered with heavy ceramic lids, and there they must sit quietly in their cozy, dark haven (with the occasional stir here and there), until we revisit them next year, by which time they should have fermented into delicious tangy Maesil syrup. Studies have shown that longer fermentation time can increase the beneficial compounds in the extract, so we feel it is very important to leave the ferment for at least a year. (Choi 2020, Koh 2020).
Maesil syrup is commonly used medicinally and, in the Korean community, this custom has been passed down from generation to generation. Anyone at 123 Farm who complains of indigestion will soon be handed a warm cup of Maesil tea (Maesil syrup mixed with hot water) to relieve their discomfort. Though research is limited, several experiments carried out on mice have indicated a positive correlation with components in the fruit Maesil and its benefits in the small intestine and bowel movements (Lee 2017, Kim 2017, Na 2012).
A recently published study that specifically focused on the Maesil extract (syrup) and its anticancer properties revealed not only anticancer, but also anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antibacterial effects (Bailly 2019). The study further revealed that, although more research and data is needed, their findings supported the use of Maesil syrup to treat gastrointestinal cancers and that it has beneficial effects on treating the digestive tract. Don’t you love it when you discover that something delicious is also filled with incredible health benefits?
Maesil syrup is a versatile ingredient to have at hand in your pantry. Not only can you enjoy it as a beverage, but it is also a perfect sweetener for marinades, sauces, salad dressings, etc. Knowing how precious Maesil syrup is, we look forward with great expectations to next year’s outcome from this year’s harvest. Till then, here is a very simple recipe for Maesil tea, a perfect ending to any meal.
Iced Maesil Tea Recipe
2 cups of Water
2 tbsp of Maesil syrup
½ cup of Ice
4-5 bruised leaves of Mint
Add all ingredients into your cup and stir stir stir!
You can always add in different herbs or slices of fruit like oranges or strawberries to change up your flavor.
Substitute your water with sparkling water to make your new favorite soda.
For a warm drink, add 2 tablespoons of syrup to a mug of warm water. The amount can be adjusted to your taste.