Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Persimmon Tasting & Open House

On Saturday, Nov. 8th, we will do a hoshigaki demonstration at Twin Peaks Orchard in Newcastle, as part of the Persimmon Tasting event taking place there.  We'll bring drying persimmons in various stages to demonstrate and talk about the drying process.  Twin Peaks orchard is a nearby orchard that is also multi-generational and family-owned.  Twin Peaks started almost 100 years ago, around the same time as Otow Orchard, and our families have known each other since then.  Some of Twin Peak specialties are amagaki persimmons and peaches.

On Saturday, Nov. 14th from 1:00-3:00 PM Placer Land Trust is sponsoring an open house at our orchard.  There will be food, tours and hoshigaki demonstrations.  Click here for a link to their site with information about the event.  Both events are free and open to everyone. 

At left is a photo of a branch of sunburned hachiya persimmons

Busy at the Orchard

The orchard has been very busy with all aspects of making hoshigaki (dried persimmons) lately. We've been peeling and hanging as many persimmons as possible while the weather is good and while the persimmons are still hard enough to peel. There are now hoshigaki drying all stages. Freshly peeled persimmons are hanging on the racks and wall outside, the glass hot house has already-massaged persimmons, and the other indoor drying rooms have racks of drier persimmons. We spend time going through the racks massaging the hoshigaki and moving the sticks to a new location if they are ready. Some hoshigaki are nearly finished and "sugaring up", meaning that they are starting to show a powdery dusting of fructose on the surface. We expect to have some of the first hoshigaki of the season finished within the next two weeks.

Aside from working with hoshigaki and keeping track of mail orders, we are also sending out orders of fresh persimmons and Asian pears. Quite a few community groups have been coming for scheduled tours of the orchard, too.

In the fruit stand we now have lots of fuyu persimmons of various sizes. In general, summer vegetables such as tomatoes are now almost finished. Our pumpkin patch is open if you're looking for pumpkins for Halloween.

Here's what you'll find for sale at the fruit stand now:

  • Persimmons--Maru, hachiya, hyakume (vodka-treated), fuyu
  • Apples--Fuji, Golden Delicious, Mutsu
  • Asian pear--Okusankichi (large brown variety)
  • Grapes--Ribier
  • Jujube
  • Pomegranate--white variety
  • Quince
  • Winter Squash--butternut, delicata, red kuri, kabocha, Hokkaido
  • Vegetables--tomatillos, eggplant, bitter melon, peppers (sweet and hot), basil
  • Honey-from bees at our orchard
  • PUMPKINS (to choose at the fruit stand or pick your own in the pumpkin patch)--Jack-o-lantern (small and large), specialty types, pie pumpkins

Above you can see photos of Viviano practicing peeling next to a tub of peeled hachiya persimmons ready for stringing and hanging on the racks, and a photo of Helen peeling more persimmons while Toshio strings some for hanging.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What's New at the Orchard

This week it has rained for a few days, so we held off peeling more persimmons to dry for hoshigaki until the weather cleared.   If the freshly peeled persimmons have to stay covered under the tarp because of rain for too long, there's a danger that they'll remain damp for too long and mildew.  The first hachiya persimmons were peeled at the end of September, but they are not yet finished drying to become hoshigaki in its final form.  We are still taking orders for hoshigaki and fresh persimmons.  For a link to the order form, click here.

Summer vegetables are slowing down now in the gardens, so we have less to offer in the fruit stand.  If you want to order organic winter vegetable seedlings to plant in your garden, please contact Julie and Allison at Peas and Harmony.

Here's what you'll find at the fruit stand now:

  • Persimmons-Maru, hachiya, hyakume (vodka-treated), fuyu
  • Jujube
  • Pomegranate--white variety
  • Quince
  • Plums--Casselman
  • Apples--Northern Spy, Golden Delicious, Fuji, Mutsu
  • Asian pear--2oth Century, New Century, Shinko, Yoi, Yali
  • European pear--D'Anjou
  • Grapes--Ribier, Thompson seedless 
  • Winter Squash--butternut, delicata, Fordhook acorn, red kuri, kabocha, Hokkaido, buttercup, pie pumpkins
  • Tomatoes, tomatillos, eggplant, green beans, bitter melon, okra, peppers (sweet and hot), basil, garlic
  • Honey-from bees at our orchard  
  •  PUMPKINS (to choose at the fruit stand or pick your own in the pumpkin patch)--Jack-o-lantern (small and large), specialty types,  pie pumpkins
 The photo above shows some of our chickens looking out of their chicken dome.  Above them you can see the bamboo roost we made suspended from the top.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Hyakume & Maru Persimmons

One of the varieties of persimmons we have at the orchard is called hyakume. It's a large yellowish persimmon that becomes brown inside if it has been pollinated. If hyakume is pollinated it can be eaten when it's hard, but if it is not pollinated, you must wait to eat it until it becomes soft like jello. A hard unpollinated hyakume will make your mouth pucker up and dry out worse than the greenest banana you could ever taste.

Maru persimmons are the same way, they must be pollinated and brown inside to be edible when they're hard. Hyakume is also called "cinnamon" persimmon, and maru is called "chocolate" since they are both shades of brown inside when pollinated. Both hyakume and maru are very sweet if you choose them carefully. They also each have a slightly different flavor than fuyu (another variety of persimmon that is always edible when hard).

Because it is difficult to tell if the hyakume are pollinated, we treat some of the fruit with vodka to sweeten them and take away the astringency. We sell these as "vodka-treated hyakume", although they are also called amagaki persimmons. Amagaki is Japanese for a non-astringent type of persimmon. The process of treating persimmons with alcohol (vodka or any other type) is called awasu, and is a process brought here from Japan by Japanese American farmers.

After treating each hyakume persimmon with a few drops of vodka and letting them rest for a number of days, all of the fruits are sweet and ready to eat, even though they are firm. We no longer have to worry about whether or not it was pollinated, and all of the treated hyakume can then be eaten firm or in any stage of softness. The first hyakume of the season has now been treated and is at the fruit stand for sale.

At left is a photo of a hyakume growing on a tree in our orchard.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Pleasure of Placer Persimmons: Lunch in the Orchard

Slow Food will be hosting a persimmon-themed lunch at our orchard on Saturday, Oct. 17th from 11:00-1:30. Here's a quote from the press info:

Join us at the lovely Otow Orchard to learn about Hoshigaki, the art of hand-dried persimmons. A local lunch with each course featuring "something persimmon." Ticket price includes presentation, lunch and a donation in support of agricultural education in Placer County schools. In the event of rain, the event will be rescheduled to Saturday, October 24, same time. Call Joanne Neft at 916-663-9126 to confirm your attendance.

There are also a few places you can order tickets online for the lunch. Click here to go to the Brown Paper Tickets site.

Fuji Apples

At left is a photo of a fuji apple tree taken this past weekend. Those apples have been picked, so we have fuji apples for sale at the fruit stand now.

Here's a list of other new fruits and vegetables this week at the fruit stand:

  • Golden Delicious apples
  • Ribier grapes--very large round sweet purple grapes with seeds
  • Hyakume persimmon--not treated with vodka
  • Red Kuri, kabocha, Hokkaido and buttercup winter squash

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