As one who loved poetry
As I eat a persimmon
The bell starts ringing
At Horyu-ji Temple
Autumn is persimmon time in Japan.
In Japan persimmons were first written about in the 8th century, at that time the fruit was considered a luxury good for the aristocrats. By the 17th century persimmons became a fruit for the common folk due to increased cultivation and uses. Two varieties exist: the astringent persimmons and sweet persimmons. The sweet are eaten fresh, peeled and quartered just like apples. They can also be included in other types of sweet and savory dishes, including persimmon shira-ae, or fresh pickles.
Persimmons are called ‘kaki’ in Japanese. Dry persimmons in the Japanese language are called hoshigaki: “hoshi” means “dry” and “kaki” means persimmon.
You eat a fresh Japanese persimmon by cutting off the skin and then slicing it into quarters like an apple, with care taken not to eat the core. Fresh persimmons are best when they are hard and crisp. One variety that is popular is fuyu persimmon.
There are numerous varieties that come in two very distinct categories; either astringent or ‘regular’.
Fuyugaki The regular persimmon, or fuyugaki is similar in shape to a conventional tomato and is eaten like an apple; peeled and sliced into wedges. This is the ‘garden variety’, entry level persimmon.
This type is flatter in shape. They don’t taste astringent, so they can be eaten raw while their flesh is still firm and crispy.
Shibugaki The shibugaki is a foodie’s persimmon. The astringent shibugaki is very astringent.
Astringent persimmons are oblong and pointed at the end. They are usually dried to remove the astringency before eating.
Dried persimmons can keep longer than raw persimmons. They can be kept for weeks when kept in a cool, dark place and for months when frozen. Although vitamin C is lost during the drying process, the dried product is higher in calories. That is probably one reason why they were an important preserved food for winter season in the old days.
Because hoshigaki is associated with good luck and longevity, it is often used as part of the New Year’s decoration ornament with big rice cakes in Japan.