There will never be a white Christmas in Mirukashi. If we get snow it comes only in flurries and dustings that don’t stick. But I consider the kaki trees my consolation. Driving the country roads, it seems the hills are dressed for the holidays, the dull winter landscape bedecked with persimmon-jeweled trees. I can’t help but see them as festive and ornamental. Farmhouses have rows of them drying under the eves. It’s such a joyful seasonal sight that I too have always wanted a row of turmeric colored globes hanging under the eaves of my house. I’ve tried my hand at it. It really should have been easy. In late November, peel astringent Hachiya persimmons, disinfect in boiling water or clear liquor, and hang in a sunny, dry, well-ventilated place for four to six weeks. I took my cue from the locals. One by one, I strung mine up on the south side of the house. Within minutes a cheerful line of them hung basking in the winter sun. Ten days later I started to massage them gently now and then to encourage a uniform gelatinous interior and to push the sugars to the surface to form a powdery white coating. Then the rains came. Hoshigaki do not like the rain. I thought they’d be fine, tucked under the broad overhang. But strong winds blew the rain in. They survived, but the flesh blackened and the sugars washed away.
Determined to beat the rain the next year, I built a structure on which to hang them in the entry. But the entry is dark and hoshigaki like the sun. So I took them out on bright days. Then the flies descended. Great big, burly flies that seek warmth on the sunny south side of the house were delighted to find my sugar-leeching persimmons hanging there. The scene was unsavory to say the least. A second batch of hoshigaki for the birds.
I told a friend about my spectacular defeats and within days a box of the most precious and beautiful dried persimmons arrived at my door. Clearly there are a few things that are best left to the professionals. Hoshigaki are lovely, a traditional Japanese sweet to pair with tea. When homemade, the persimmons bright yellow-orange flesh darkens towards a crimson brown and the texture resembles that of dates. And like dates or prunes or dried figs, their savory sweetness pairs very well with creamy cheeses at holiday dinners. And they are a nice addition to a slightly sour yogurt in the morning.
Persimmons are such a delight in autumn when all other colors fade. It feels like Christmas-come-early, the trees decked in dazzling globes that twinkle in the cold, clear afternoon sun. I find it invigorating and still can’t help but want my own string of them dangling outside.