Hoshigaki – The Japanese Art of Drying Persimmons

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Hoshigaki in the drying process at Penryn Orchard Specialties.

Four hundred and sixty two miles – that’s the distance that Jeff Rieger and his girlfriend Laurence Hauben drove last Wednesday to get the Santa Monica Farmers Market. From late July through Christmas, they make that commute every week to sell their carefully picked crop of Asian pears, apples and persimmons under the banner Penryn Orchard Specialties. When the market closes, they pack up and head back home clocking a total nine hundred and twenty four miles on the road from start to finish.

It’s the same passion, dedication and (pardon the pun) drive that led Rieger to learn the Japanese art of hoshigaki – a hundreds year old, painstakingly laborious technique for drying hachiya persimmons. First, the fruit is picked firm-ripe, washed carefully, peeled and hung by it’s stem from a string attached to a pole. “Next,” Rieger explains, “It’s given a delicate hand-massage roughly every three days.” The process – subject to temperature and humidity swings – can take anywhere between four and six weeks to finish.

Dried hoshigaki ready to sell. (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

The result resembles a deflated burnt orange balloon, hardly eye catching, but one bite makes you appreciate the six weeks of labor that went into that delightfully jammy mouthfull. In Japan, Hoshigaki are traditionally given as a gift to celebrate the new year. You can purchase Rieger’s hoshigaki at the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers Market or online at PenrynOrchardsSpecialties.com. Listen to Laura Avery talk to him about hoshigaki below: