As fall approaches so do the seasonal persimmon or "kaki" in Japanese. These fruits are sometimes called “fruit of the gods” and have become Japan's national fruit. Harvested beginning in the late fall, persimmon are prized for their bright color and sweet taste. They grow on trees and are light to dark orange with tomato-like stems.
There are two primary varieties of persimmon in Japan: fuyu and hachiya.
The fuyu type is a squat rounded persimmon that resembles an orange tomato. This is the most common type of persimmon and is commonly found at Asian grocers in season. Fuyu persimmons can be eaten out of hand like an apple and have a crisp, fall flavor slightly reminiscent of gingerbread.
The second type is called hachiya. Hachiya persimmons are long and pointed, often resembling an acorn. When unripe, these persimmons are firm and inedible as their flesh is intensely tannic and bitter. As they ripen, their flesh becomes gelatinous, almost pudding-like, and can be eaten as is or used for baking.
Hoshigaki: Dried Persimmon
Hachiya persimmons, in their unripe form, are mostly used to make hoshigaki or dried persimmons. The Japanese have been making hoshigaki for centuries using
a traditional technique that is both incredibly simple but labor-intensive.
To make hoshigaki, hachiya persimmon with at least an inch of stem attached is chosen. These persimmons are then peeled completely, being careful not to bruise the flesh. Twine is then tied around the stems of the fruit, and hung in a place with good airflow and humidity. If possible, the fruit is exposed to the sun from time to time. The persimmons are hung for anywhere around four to six weeks.
The key to making hoshigaki is massaging the fruit every day for a few seconds after the first week. Over the course of three weeks, the persimmons will shrink and shrivel, and their sugars will come up to the surface and crystallize, forming a white layer or a sugar bloom. The sugar bloom is what makes hoshigaki different from most other dried fruits.
The taste of hoshigaki is said to be a dried-yet pliant texture with a warm spicey, sweet flavor. Hoshigaki can be eaten on its own as a snack or used in other dishes like salads or desserts from cakes and ice cream to wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets). When eaten by itself, it is often served with green tea, as its sweetness cuts into the bitter matcha.
About the author:
Samantha is currently a 5th-year JET in Okinawa, originally from Hawaii. She has been somewhat connected to Japanese culture her whole life despite being Chinese American. She's had the privilege of traveling to Japan and experiencing Japanese culture at a young age. She loves food and is always looking to try new places. When she is not working or out eating, she is an avid baker at home and has been known to feed her colleagues an excessive amount of baked goods.