Although there are several natural producers of pickled plums in Japan, few use the year-long traditional process of Mitoku's supplier, the Sogawa family, and fewer still use organically grown plums and high-quality sea salt. In fact, the umeboshi found in many Oriental food stores are made in just a few weeks using red dye, organic acids, and commercial salt. To be sure that you are buying the finest-quality pickled plums, check the ingredients on the label. Sogawa-style pickled plums are made with organic plums, organic shiso leaves, and sea salt.
In less than a decade, the worldwide demand for Ryujin pickled plums, paste, and vinegar has outgrown their tiny orchard. Recently, the Sogawas have been teaching the traditional method and organic agriculture to neighboring plum farmers. Their commitment to the labor-intense, ancient plum-pickling process and natural agriculture is keeping this way of life alive in the mountains surrounding Ryujin village.