Umi Budo Sea Grapes: What are They and How to Eat

Umi Budo

Caulerpa lentillifera

Okinawan Dialect Umi Budo
Japanese Name Kubirezuta
Common Name Sea Grapes, Green Caviar
Agricultural Classification Seaweed
Classification Caulerpaceae (Green Algae Family)
Origin Okinawa, Japan, Phillippines, Malaysia

Click here to Go down to How to Prepare and Eat Umi Budo

If you are learning Japanese, you may have realized by now that 'kawaii' is everything in Japan. Kawaii means cute in Japanese and, let me tell you, there are a lot of cute onomatopoeias in Japan. Why am I saying this, because what could possibly be cute about seaweed? Glad you asked...'puchi puchi'!

No, I haven't gone mad. 'Puchi' means pop in Japanese and is used when describing the sound and feeling of popping sea grapes. It is a cute way of saying pop and you are free to use it the entire time you eat umi budo don (sea grapes over a bowl of rice dish) at any seafood restaurant in Okinawa. No guarantee the Okinawan obaa-sans (grandma) won't laugh at you though. Puchi puchi away!

Umi budo have been crowned the expensive-sounding name 'green caviar' by who knows who, probably some French guy. While that sounds expensive, umi budo prices are far from it. Caviar can be $50-$100 per 30 grams (1 ounce)! Umi budo range from 150 yen to 500 yen ($1.50-$5.00) per 30 grams depending on how much and where you buy them. Honestly, umi budo taste just as good (in my humble opinion, of course...). Since they are cultivated in the ocean, naturally, they have a salty tang when you pop them in your mouth. They go well with soy sauce and vinegar, as well as rice, pasta, salad and other dishes that pair well with salt. More than flavor, they are loved for the popping texture. They are sold all over Japan, typically at Okinawa-themed restaurants, but only grown near Okinawa and its surrounding islands. Lots of umi budo are grown on Kumejima island in a greenhouse that uses Okinawa ocean water nearby in optimized temperatures. Umi budo is relatively easy to cultivate and grows quickly under the right conditions.

It makes it easier to harvest this way, too, instead of gearing up in scuba suits and diving to get it. Once it is harvested, each string of sea grapes is separated before it is packaged for the customer as seen below.

How to Prepare and Eat Umi Budo

Take out only the amount you will eat (they expand like pasta so be careful!). Drain any original salt water and lightly run them under fresh, clean water and then transfer them to a bowl filled with fresh water for 1 minute (or 3 if you really want to get the salt out). They will return to their original puchi-puchi, or vibrant, poppable form. Now they are ready to eat. You can eat them as is or use them in some short recipes shown in our post Umi Budo Recipes.

*DO NOT STORE SEA GRAPES IN COLD PLACES SUCH AS THE REFRIGERATOR. *

Sea grapes cannot handle cold temperatures (hence why they are only able to be grown in Okinawa and other subtropical areas). They will become frail and shrink when cold. This is why it is recommended to take out only the amount you will eat. If they came in a package full of salt water to preserve them, reseal them in that package and store at room temperature. The optimal storage temperature is 15 ° C to 28 ° C (59 ° F to 82 ° F).

*EAT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE WHEN USING LIQUIDS ON THE SEA GRAPES*

Sea grapes will shrink and lose their elastic pop texture when soaked in dressings and other liquids for a while. Try to pour any dressings or liquids on the grapes right before you eat them.

*DO NOT CONFUSE WITH FLORIDA SEAGRAPES*

I don't know if you've noticed (I don't blame you, I definitely wouldn't have), but this article has a space between sea and grapes. This is because seagrapes, or Coccoloba uvifera, are a bundle of green fruit grown on trees, typically in southern places like Florida in the US and the Bahamas. While different articles intertwine between using a space and not using one, our Okinawan sea grapes are not the same as these tree seagrapes.

Health Benefits of Umi Budo

Pretty much every food in Okinawa has life-extending powders, and umi budo are not an exception!

・it is rich in calcium which is good for bone and muscle health

・the calcium and magnesium in the grapes are good for your brain which in turn may help your mood

・the grapes are full of fiber that helps digestion and may promote a good intestinal bacteria environment

・no matter how you consume them, vitamins and minerals are downright good for your body and beauty and umi budo contains a rich amount of Vitamin A and C, calcium, zinc and iron

・they also have a good vegetable protein-per-calorie ratio and a high amount of omega3 fatty acids

So go ahead and eat all the umi budo you want! They are healthy and taste great, especially if you love that popping texture in your mouth. Nifedebiru!

additional sources:

・Immunostimulatory activity of polysaccharides isolated from Caulerpa lentillifera on macrophage cells (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22451391)

・Comparison of cardiovascular protective effects of tropical seaweeds, Kappaphycus alvarezii, Caulerpa lentillifera, and Sargassum polycystum, on high-cholesterol/high-fat diet in rats (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20482284)

・Proximate composition, total phenolic content, and antioxidant activity of seagrape (Caulerpa lentillifera) (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21806610)

・Biosorption of Cu2+, Cd2+, Pb2+, and Zn2+ using dried marine green macroalga Caulerpa lentillifera (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16330209)

⁂The statements contained herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The information contained in this website is intended for education, entertainment, and information purposes only. This information is not intended to be used to diagnose, prescribe, or replace proper medical care. The plant described herein is not intended to treat, cure, diagnose, mitigate, or prevent any disease.

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