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Pampered Japanese Dried Persimmons

The Japanese sure give their food a lot of TLC.

Cows get massaged so their flesh transforms into buttery, extraordinarily rich Kobe beef. And even persimmons get the shiatsu treatment.

Maybe I should have been born a Japanese food product because I’d be one happy camper if I got back-rubs on a regular basis. But forgive me, I digress…

I’d never tried the famous hoshigaki before. So when I spied these dried persimmons at Nijiya Market in San Jose last week, I had to buy a package to try.

The traditional method, brought here by Japanese immigrant farmers who settled in Placer County, require that firm persimmons be peeled by hand, and hung by string for several weeks. During that interval — yes indeedie– the persimmons get regular massages.

The rub-downs apparently help break up the flesh and give the dried persimmons a more uniform shape. They also help smooth the exterior to retard mold. After three to six weeks of this, a white powdery bloom appears naturally on the fruit, and they’re ready to be enjoyed.

Hoshigaki (also spelled hoshi gaki) are not easy to find. Because they are so labor intensive to make, there’s little commercial production. In fact, Slow Food has added hoshigaki to its Ark of Taste, a classification given to artisan foods in danger of disappearing. The global food organization is working to revive this fruit tradition.

Even dried, hoshigaki remain quite moist and retain a pleasant chew. They are sweet, but not nearly as much as other dried fruit, such as papaya. They taste of sweet potato and perhaps gingerbread with a slight floral quality.

They also don’t come cheap, either. A package of six was about $6.

But when you consider all the work that went into each one, it’s really a small price to pay for a taste of meticulous craftsmanship by both man and Mother Nature. 

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