This week I'm shopping for a persimmon tree for the Edible Japanese Garden that's replacing the fern garden out front at my place. Of course I will be planting a sweet, rather than an astringent (shibui) persimmon. The sweet ones, such as Fuyu, are squat-shaped, and can be eaten either crunchy or yielding. The long-shaped Hachiya variety, the ones Aussies first planted before we knew better (sorry Hachiya), are awfully 'shibui'. You have to wait until they become syrupy-ripe before eating, otherwise, biting into one will give you that 'cotton-wool-in-the-mouth' reaction, awful. I don't enjoy slushy and stringy much more than shibui, and neither, it seems, do the Japanese. They harvest them in Autumn, hang them under the eaves, and let the dry winter air transform them to something like enchanted dried apricots: intense, chewy, and frosted in sugar. 'Hoshi Gaki' is the Japanese name.
Last year while visiting the old pottery town of Machiko, in the Japanese mountains, I came across a lady at the traditional dye-works, performing the annual Autumn task of harvesting and preparing the 'shibui' persimmons from the tree outside, to be hung to dry.
Here is how you do it.
1. Cut the fruit from the trees, leaving a little 'handle' to hang it from
2. Peel the fruit, but leave a tiny square of skin at the bottom. This stops the sugars from dripping out the bottom
3. Hang them, evenly spaced, in a shady place with plenty of dry air circulating so they don't become moldy. If you have ancient thatched roof eaves on hand, perfect. Note what a beautiful, asymmetric patterns the Japanese lady has hung her baubles of drying fruit. The sight of drying persimmons is one that must be lived with for weeks, recalling autumns past as you gaze on them. In the Japanese aesthetic, almost everything you touch can be honoured as art.
No bloom yet, but looking festive.
grand Tokyo garden that her parents left to her and her sister.
Hear the how-to story from somebody who has actually done it. The Slow Food USA drying persimmon story is both beautiful and useful.