The delicacy of cherry blossom is associated with transience. That may be why A.E. Housman felt moved to compose one of his most famous poems, first published in A Shropshire Lad (1896).
“Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.”
Cherry blossom (known in Japan as sakura) is a classic Japanese culinary ingredient. Fresh sakura petals have little taste, but freeze-dried or salted, the aroma and flavour of the flower becomes concentrated. Known as okazuke, cherry blossom preserved in the liquid from traditional plum pickling imparts a unique flavour to dishes and drinks like:
Sakura tea. The flower unfolds in the hot water, which adds a touch of class to a typical drink offered at celebrations in Japan.
Sakura mocha. A cake made of sweet rice. This is a classic use of pickled sakura and is found all over Japan during the cherry blossom season.
Sakura-an. A Japanese sweet made with shiro-an (sweetened white bean paste) mixed with chopped salted sakura leaves that impart a delicate pink hue.
Sakura anko mushipan. A Japanese-style muffin made of steamed bread. Fluffy and soft, the sakura are combined with red bean paste.
Sakura layer cake. A combination of sakura and matcha tea powder. The result is a delicate sponge cake of green and pink coloured layers.
Sakura onigiri. Rice balls coloured and seasoned by pickled blossoms.
“Now, of my three score years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.
And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.”