One beautiful sunny day in June, I cycled over to the Clearspring warehouse in West London, to learn more about the products and the business.
Clearspring is a family-run company, founded by Christopher Dawson in 1993. They specialise in working with Japanese organic farmers to produce high quality traditional Japanese foods. Even in Japan, a lot of these products are difficult to find in organic form, and so many of the farmers that Clearspring work with are dependent on them for their business. Christopher was even recognised by the Japanese Government in 2007, one of the only non-Japanese people to receive the Award for Overseas Promotion of Japanese Food, for his distinguished contribution to the promotion of Japanese organic food worldwide.
The team gave me an in-depth talk on miso and umeboshi production. Clearspring produce six types of unpasteurised miso, all working in conjunction with Japanese farmers who have been using traditional methods of miso production for many generations. These range from a sweet white miso (rice and soya), to dark hatcho miso (pure soyabeans). The darker the miso, the longer it is fermented. They also recently launched a Chickpea miso, which is an innovative soya-free miso. Although technically not a raw product, because it is made from cooked ingredients, unpasteurised miso is a living foods product, because due to the fermentation process, enzymatic activity is still occurring.
I am a big fan of umeboshi, and found it fascinating to learn more about umeboshi production. Clearspring produce Ume Su vinegar, Umeboshi Paste, and Umeboshi Plums. Their umeboshi has been grown on a mountain farm in a region which is known for producing the best and fattest plums, and has been grown there for four generations. The plums are harvested once a year, in late June, and then pickled. The plums can be added as a garnish to dishes, used in a broth recipe, or you can even make tea out of them. They are super alkalising, and support the liver; a Japanese superfood! The paste is easier to use, and I love to spread it in nori sheets when I am making cauliflower sushi, or make a salad dressing with raw tahini. The vinegar is another easy way to get the benefits - use it as a salad dressing, or try adding it to sparkling water for a refreshing alkalizing beverage. It's a great alternative to apple cider vinegar, being equally good for the digestion. Because the ume plums are pickled in salt, no heat-treatment or pasteurisation is needed, and they are still in their raw state.
I love to learn more about the food I eat, and through chatting with Chris and his team, I really got a greater sense of the dedication and care that goes into producing these foods. I probably use a Clearspring product every day, and I will appreciate even more now, how lucky we are to have access to these traditional Japanese ingredients in organic form. It's wonderful that in this era of mass-commodification, they are keeping these artisanal food preparation methods alive.
Shop Clearspring products here, including sea vegetables, cold-pressed oils, Japanese seasonings, and teas, as well as miso and umeboshi.