In the Fall, when temperatures drop and the days get just a little shorter, persimmons begin to grow with vibrant orange colors from apple-looking trees. Persimmon season starts in early October, when the orchard leaves turn golden yellow and fall to the ground. I remember tasting my first persimmon when I was a kid, right around Halloween. Our neighbors would bring over heaping brown paper bags full of persimmons, freshly picked from their overflowing tree. After biting into the soft apple-like flesh, the flavors of cinnamon and cantaloupe made me swoon with what tasted like a mouthful of Fall flavors. Something my little kid self could have never imaged were hoshigaki persimmons from Otow Orchards, which I now consider nature’s Fall candy.
For the last 100 years the family-run Otow Orchard has been producing some spectacular persimmons in the small town of Granite Bay, just outside of Sacramento, California. Around this time of year, the Otow farm not only grows and harvests persimmons, they also hand-make hoshigaki persimmons using a traditional Japanese drying technique. Each persimmon is hand peeled, strung like a light bulb, and hung out in the sun to dry for weeks at a time, dehydrating in the open air. Through the drying process, each persimmon is rotated and massaged until they turn into a soft fruit leather and the natural sugars ooze out and whiten like a powder sugar coating. For years I have wanted to visit Otow Orchard just to take a peek at their dried dangling persimmons, all strung up like holiday ornaments. Every year I wanted to go, and every year the timing just wasn’t right – until this year! With one free day during our week-long Thanksgiving stay with my family in the San Francisco Bay Area, Mark and I hopped in the car one early morning to catch the last hoshigaki persimmons harvest of the season.
While at their fruit stand, we bought hoshigaki persimmons and picked up five fresh persimmon types – chocolate, vodka, cinnamon, hachiya, and gyombo. I was so fascinated with their vodka persimmon, which is an unpollinated bitter hachiya persimmon that is made sweet with a few drops of vodka on the stem then sealed in a bag for a week. How cool is that? We also grabbed a few Asian pears, pomegranates, and clementines, all grown at the orchard.
The dried hoshigaki persimmons take about 6 weeks to pick, peel, and dry with so many uncontrollable variables, like the weather, seasonal crop yield, and humidity. There are a few shortcuts you can take when drying hoshigaki persimmons but the Otow Orchard does it the right way, which produces the most tender and delicious dried fruit. While visiting the farm, one of the Otow family members (who is over 100 years old!) was peeling and delicately hanging each persimmon from their final harvest of the season.
Exploring the Otow Orchard and seeing their hoshigaki persimmons was quite literally a sweet treat! The experience was everything I had hoped for and I can check this edible adventure off my bucket list. On our drive back home, it was hard resisting the temptation of digging into our bounty! And while our Otow Orchard fruit didn’t exactly replace our Thanksgiving pumpkin pie, it was the perfect sweet snack and dessert accompaniment.
I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!