My Aunt Debbie drove down from the mountains bearing her usual gifts: carrots in wine sauce for our Thanksgiving table, bags of Mandarin oranges for the family, and something very special: one hoshigaki persimmon. None of us had ever heard of this Japanese delicacy, but were all game to try it, especially Anthony and I. We love to try new foods and especially love things from Japan.
My aunt stumbled upon this treasure. She lives in Auburn, which is also home to Eddie and Betty Nishikawa, 87 and 78, respectively, who have been farming groves of Mandarin oranges for decades. They used to sell their oranges at Tsuda’s, a popular local grocery store that shut down when its owners retired some years ago. Everyone loved their oranges so much that they still do a brisk business by appointment at their farm. My Aunt Debbie has been a loyal customer as long as I can remember, and they always shower her with extra treats. This year they gave her three hoskigaki persimmons. They sell for $18 a pound and can only be made by hand after weeks of labor. She generously wanted to share such a delight, so she brought to Thanksgiving to share the experience.
Hoshigaki simply translates to “dried persimmon,” but that description sells the process short. First the persimmons must be carefully peeled by hand in such a way that leaves the stem intact. A string is then tied around the stem and the persimmons are hung from a special drying rack. The fruit must dry outdoors, but it is very sensitive to temperature and moisture, and can be ruined by a sudden rain, so the location of the racks is monitored carefully, moved if necessary, and the weather is checked frequently. Incredibly, the persimmons are hand-massaged gently every few days, for up to six weeks. The natural sugars of the fruit rise to the surface, giving it a dust-like coating of sweetness, and the process is complete. They are very rare and justly expensive at $18 a pound.
After dinner, Anthony and I lined up eagerly to try the fruit. It was rich and smooth without any of the astringent taste normally associated with persimmon. Even though it was coated with sugar on the outside, it wasn’t very sweet, but it was deeply flavored and complex–like the best date you’ve ever had in your life. The texture was tender and dense without any of the stringy fibrousness associated with dates. The sweetness was mild and balanced with the essence of persimmon. It tasted very, very special. Traditionally, hoshigaki persimmons are enjoyed with green tea, and Anthony and I could see how that would be a delightful pairing.
swedish meatballs / ethnic food
tastes like a date/not too sweet/enjoyed with green tea
you can order them here http://www.otoworchard.com/hoshigaki.html
My Aunt was so overwhelmed with the Nishikawa’s generosity, that she told Eddie she would bring him some Swedish meatballs, made from my Grandma’s famous recipe. “No thanks,” he said, “I don’t eat ethnic food.”
I found a farm near where my Aunt lives, Otowo Orchard, that sells their hoshigaki persimmons. They are worth the $18 a pound price tag.