What is Maesil (Green Plum) ?
Maesil is a small green plum that grows on flowering trees throughout Asia. They are considered one of the symbols of spring in Korean culture as they flower in late Winter and early Spring, being one of the first signs that Winter has ended and warmer weather is on the way. Green plums(maesil) is harvested in early summer and is either pickled or fermented in sugar to make maesil-cheong(green plum syrup).
Maesil are often quite sour, so they are not eaten fresh like a regular fruit, but they are used to make various juices, teas and alcohols, and most commonly mixed with sugar and left for about 3 months to make a sweet syrup called Maesil Cheong (Green Plum Extract) used to sweeten dishes. Maesil cheong 매실청 is a more flavorful and healthier substitute for sugar in all foods, including kimchi.
Not To Be Confused With
Red plum syrup
Where and What To Buy
Korean grocery stores or Japanese stores, usually around May or June. Only very few farms in US grow them so they are sold only in late spring once a year.
How to Use/Cook
Make Green Plum Syrup (Maesil Cheong) with it by letting is ferment in sugar for 100 days. See my Green Plum Syrup RECIPE here.
How to Clean/Store
Store as you would other fruits: cool room temperature away from direct sunlight or in the refrigerator for maximum longevity. One should use them as soon as possible if planning to make syrup as fresh, not bruised plums will be most effective.
Maesil have a long history of use in traditional Chinese and Korean medicine. Koreans take Maesil for colds but most often for light indigestion. People also talk about many other benefits, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.