As autumn deepens the nights become longer and colder.
It is the time of apples, mandarins and sweet potatoes.
Yet often overlooked is the humble persimmon. Persimmons are a popular autumn fruit in Japan.
It is native to China, and spread to Japan more than 1,000 years ago.
At that time the fruit was a luxury good for the aristocrats.
By the 17th century persimmons became a fruit for the common folk due to increased cultivation and uses.
Two varieties exist: the astringent persimmons(shibu-gaki) and sweet persimmons(ama-gaki).
Astringent persimmons must be peeled and dried to become edible.
Hoshigaki, or dried persimmons can keep longer than raw ones and contain high calories.
So they were an important preserved food for winter season in the old days.
Associated with good luck and longevity, hosigaki are often used as a part of the New Year’s decoration with big rice cakes.
Young astringent persimmons are also used to produce kakishibu, the traditional Japanese dye of deep amber color.
Ama-gaki or sweet persimmons are eaten fresh, peeled and quartered just like apples which were introduced in Japan around the mid-19th century. Sweet persimmon, native to Japan, are a mutation of the astringent species.
The first was found about 800 years ago.
In addition to the fruit, the kaki leaves have been used for wrapping sushi called kakinoha–zushi or persimmon leaf sushi to keep fish good to eat.
The kaki fruits ripen when the leaves have mostly fallen off the tree from late October to mid- December.
Stretching out the leafless branches,
the kaki tree with many red fruits standing against the sky makes one of the most beautiful sights of the season.
Not only has this fruit long been a seasonal symbol,
but also it is an important aesthetic material included in paintings and ceramics, as exemplified by Kakiemon style of porcelain.
Kakiemon ware was invented by Kakiemon, a potter and named after him.
It features a white porcelain base decorated with vivid red.
The color of persimmon fruit inspired the potter to produce Kakiemon red.in the 1670s and the style has continued since then.
Now is the time for a year-end party. If you have a hangover the following day, eating a fresh sweet persimmon is one of the remedies.
Amazingly persimmons are really versatile.
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