A friend of mine went to Japan this past Spring with his girlfriend, and popped the question to her while there. They were in Japan during the cherry blossom viewings, and I can't think of anywhere more romantic to be in March. They brought me back a really interesting edible souvenir: salted cherry blossoms (Sakura-no-Shiozuke 桜の塩漬け)!
In Japanese cuisine, the season is very important; seasonal foods are imparted into the dishes and are available for a very short window of time. During cherry blossom season in the spring, the flower blossoms and cherry tree leaves are added to many different kinds of food products from candies, noodles, teas, flavored rice, and condiments.
Salted cherry blossoms are paired with rice (in bowls and rice balls) and added to sweets, soups, or tea. They're most commonly made into a broth in which rice is cooked, then the rice is formed into a ball with more salted cherry blossoms pressed into it. Salted cherry blossoms are also found in a lot of mochi sweets. They impart a pleasant cherry blossom flavor to food, and the salt brings out the delicate aroma. The taste is very interesting; almost like a salty plum.
(Image: Kathryn Hill)