Are Cherry Blossoms Edible? Must-Try Sakura Flavored Snacks
The world-famous sakura cherry blossoms in Japan are a true feast for the senses. Between March and May, vibrant waves of rosy flowers paint the treetops, an invigorating aroma fills the air, and birds sing songs of spring sprung.
If you look in the shops and cafes lining those colorful Tokyo boulevards, you’ll also find abundant food and drink infused with charming blush-colored flowers better known as cherry blossoms. So what does cherry blossom taste like?
These iconic flowers boast a unique, delicate floral flavor that’s surprisingly versatile in its culinary clout. If you want to learn more about this quintessentially Japanese flavor, walk with us through the rows of blooming blossoms as we unravel the tastes of sakura.
Sakura Fruit vs. Flower: What’s the Difference?
The brief but exalted hanami, or flower viewing, season symbolizes the evanescent sweetness of life. Cherry blossom trees have the sakura fruit (the cherries), and the delicate pink flowers serve as reminders of this truth.
Both the flower and the cherry itself have delicious potential. However, there are some key differences to keep in mind concerning their flavors and how they’re regarded in Japan.
The Cherry Fruit
Cherries are a classic fruit enjoyed throughout the world. There are thousands of varieties grown across the globe, with several hundred species harvested in Japan.
While many newcomers to sakura mistake it for plum (ume), the two fruits taste quite distinct. This edible fruit flavors are as varied as the many terrains they grow on, but traditional Japanese varieties tend to boast two notes in particular:
Today, breeds from across the flavor spectrum and the world are grown nationwide, from the saccharine Kidama to the pucker-inducing Napoleon.
The term sakura refers specifically to cherry blossoms and the short season in which they flourish. Buds usually bloom between late March and mid-May, though seasonality may vary across the country. It's an amazing spectacle to witness if you attend a cherry blossom festival in Japan.
Compared with the more astringent cherry fruit, we’d describe sakura petals as:
Cherry blossoms boast a refreshing taste—think fresh garden herbs or other edible flowers—but we wouldn’t necessarily go shoveling down raw petals by the palmful. While only in minute amounts, the same kinds of cyanide found in cherry pits are present in the plant.
So, if you can’t simply bend a branch and take a bite, how might one enjoy the flavors of sakura?
How to Savor Sakura
If you’re worried about cyanide poisoning, fear not—proper preparation removes the volatile compounds that can get you sick.
Foods incorporating sakura abound from Japanese snackmakers, typically peaking around the blooming season. During this time of year, a range of specialty products are made to take advantage of cherry blossoms and the festivities surrounding them.
Some sensational sakura selections include:
Cherry blossom tea – Tea is perhaps the beverage most associated with Japan (or, at least, it’s a close second to sake). 80,000 tons of leaves are grown and harvested in the Land of the Rising Sun annually. Sakura tea is made from dried and pickled blossoms, making it a totally different flavor experience. Rehydrating the flowers reawakens their essence and produces a bright, fruity aroma and beautiful rosy hue.
- Sakura sweets – Cherry is a classic flavor for candies and confections, and their petals likewise give sugary sweets a craveable kick. These traditional-style Japanese candies are light enough to melt on your tongue, but solid enough to lock in the signature color and flavor of the blossoms.
- Marvelous mochi – Mochi is a Japanese dessert made by pounding glutinous rice until it forms a cakelike ball. It’s famous for its uniquely chewy texture and plethora of flavors, and cherry blossoms are a popular seasonal choice for infusing this frozen or fresh treat. The bright color and grassy flavor make this mochi a masterpiece of a mouthful (don’t worry—we won’t tell if you lick the powder off your fingers!).
Enjoy Sakura Goodies From Bokksu
If the elegant floral flavors of sakura tempt you, but it’s not springtime yet (or you’re not in Japan), there’s still hope to satiate your craving. We want to help you discover sakura’s many shades, with treats and products cherry-picked from Japan’s best regional snackmakers.
Whether it’s delivering your new favorite tea or crunchable snack, Bokksu strives to foster cultural sustainability while introducing you to new tastes and flavors. Discover your favorite new tempting treat and subscribe to your first Japanese snack box today.