Ark of Taste
Japanese Massaged Dried Persimmon: Hoshigaki
Hoshigaki are persimmons that are peeled and dried whole over a period of several weeks through a combination of hanging and delicate hand-massaging, until the sugars contained in the fruit form a delicate surface with a dusting that looks like frost. Unlike sliced dried fruit, which tend to be brittle and leathery, hoshigaki are succulently tender and moist, with concentrated persimmon flavor. The hoshi gaki method is traditional to Japan, and came to America with Japanese American farmers. Because they are so labor-intensive, hoshi gaki all but disappeared from commercial production.
To be eaten fresh, the Hachiya persimmon must be completely soft, otherwise it is unbearably astringent. For drying, however, the fruits are perfect when they are still firm like apples, which generally happens from the end of September to the middle of October. The riper they are, the more delicately they must be handled.
Making hoshigaki requires patience, careful monitoring, and a fair amount of dexterity. The process involves peeling the persimmon, and then hanging the fruit, several on a string or over a pole. After hanging the fruit for 3 to 7 days, the persimmon will form a skin that needs to be massaged in order to break up the hard inner pulp. The massage process goes on every 3 to 5 days for three to five weeks. By the end of this lengthy process, the sugars will come to the surface of the fruits, leaving a white bloom. The hoshi gaki are fully done when the pulp sets and you can no longer roll it.
Thanks in great part to the efforts of Joanne Neft, the Placer County Agricultural Marketing Director, there is now an interest in reviving the hoshi gaki process. Hoshigaki can be found at farmers markets from November through the Holiday season in California. The product remains scarce and hard to find beyond the area of immediate production, but one Placer County farmer, Jeff Rieger, is scheduled to begin selling hoshigaki at the Santa Monica Farmers Market this fall.