Tuesday 7 November 2017

The Divine Fruit of Autumn - Kaki (Persimmon)

Food in Japan seems far more seasonal than in the UK and Japanese people certainly have firmer ideas of what food is associated with what season - as reflected in the use of kigo (季語) or "season words" in Japanese poetry such as haiku. One of these kigo is persimmon (kaki =柿) - also called the "divine fruit" - a fruit with a thick orange skin and a unique taste and texture, sweet and fibrous (and packed full of vitamins). Although most closely associated with autumn, the buds, leaves, and flowers of the persimmon tree are also used as spring and summer kigo.

There are two types of persimmon: the short fat sweet type known as fuyū-gaki and the taller pepper-shaped astringent (shibui =渋い) persimmon known as hashiya-gaki. In the case of the former, persimmon lovers seem to be split between those who like to eat them hard and crunchy, like an apple, and those who prefer them soft - if you wait long enough, the (by now very sweet) fruit can be scooped out and eaten with a spoon! At the bottom of the page is a video showing how to peel a fuyū-gaki and prepare it for eating.

In Japan a common sight at this time of year are strings of peeled hashiya-gaki hanging out to dry in the sun, which, after a month or so has passed (and daily massages apparently!),  become what are known as hoshi-gaki =干し柿 (semi-dried kaki) - the verb hosu (干す) means to air or dry out. Hoshi-gaki, which are shrivelled up, flat, and covered in white sugar powder, are very sweet and often eaten as a snack or even as dessert during winter. Another very popular snack (pictured) are called "kaki no tane" (persimmon seeds), small crunchy long bean-shaped mini rice-crackers (senbei) that actually have no relation to kaki at all!