Sunday, November 18, 2012

Orchard News

We have been featured quite a few times in the news lately.  Gold Country media has photos and an article about our orchard and our efforts to donate to the Placer County Food Bank.  Last week we were featured on National Public Radio's California Report and KQED's Bay Area Bites.  These news stories have brought a lot of people out to the orchard in search of maru (chocolate) persimmons. Chris and Tosh are also on the cover of the farm magazine Minority Landowner in their 2012 Farmers of the Year issue. 

The show Huell Howser did about persimmons and making hoshigaki at Otow orchard for the PBS TV show California Gold will air Nov. 20th on the PBS stations KVIE/ Sacramento at 7:00 PM.  A few years ago, he and the show's crew came and spent part of a day interviewing and filming Helen, Chris and Tosh about drying persimmons.  Since then the show has aired a few times a year.

People are welcome to visit the orchard to see the persimmons drying.  Visitors can also go to our fruit stand and take walks in the orchard.  We're open Tues. through Sat.,  9-6 and Sun. from 10-5.  We're closed only on Mondays. If you want to visit the orchard for an organized group tour, please call ahead to schedule a time.  Other groups have already arranged times to come, and we want to be able to give everyone good attention.  Because we're a small farm with only a few workers, we need to know ahead of time to have enough staff available to help out.

If you're able to drive to our orchard, you can buy hoshigaki (Japanese hand-dried persimmons) at our fruit stand.  If you live too far away you can order hoshigaki through mail orderRight now we're still accepting mail orders, but it's important to get orders in as soon as possible.  When we think this year's supply has been ordered, we'll need to stop accepting new orders and there will be a notice here on the orchard blog.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Hoshigaki & the Fruit Stand

Over the past few weeks we've had a few days of rain, which has slowed hoshigaki drying a bit.  When it rains we have to leave the freshly peeled persimmons that are on the outside racks covered. When it's sunny the rack is uncovered during the day so the fruit can be exposed to the wind and sun to help with drying.  In damp air the sticks of persimmons hanging in the inside rooms are more difficult to massage without damaging them.  

We're still peeling persimmons to start new hoshigaki because the persimmons are still hard enough to peel.  Sometime we'll need to stop peeling because the persimmons will either be mostly too ripe to dry well or the weather will be too cool or damp for them to dry well.  Right now we're still taking orders for pick up at the fruit stand or mail order. If you'd like to pick up more than a pound of hoshigaki at our fruit stand, it's a good idea to call ahead We've started sending out hoshigaki mail orders that were ordered earlier this fall.     
Did you know that you could make persimmon-pumpkin pie?  One way is to take a recipe for pumpkin pie and substitute half the amount of pumpkin with persimmon pulp.  Here's a link to a photo and recipe for persimmon-pumpkin pie from an earlier post.  

Here's what we have at the fruit stand now:

  • Persimmons--Fuyu, Maru (chocolate), vodka-treated hyakume, hachiya (soft or firm), hoshigaki (Japanese hand-dried persimmons)
  • Pomegranate--white variety (cream to pink outside, softer, sweeter pink seeds) red variety
  • Asian Pears--Shinko, Okusankichi
  • Apples--Granny Smith 
  • Winter Squash--Butternut, Kabocha (many varieties), Red Kuri, pie pumpkins 
  • Vegetables--Winter melon (togan), green tomatoes, Swiss chard, herbs
  • Decorative Gourds
  • Honey--from bees at our orchard 
  • Eggs--from free range chickens
  • Beeswax candles--handmade 100% beeswax from the orchard
  • The Art of Real Food Cookbook--by Joanne Neft and Laura Kenney
  • Perfectly Persimmon Cookbook--1004 persimmon recipes by Jean Brine
  •  The California Persimmon, a persimmon cookbook published by the University of California Cooperative Extension, Placer and Nevada Counties. 
  • Master Gardeners Calender--by Placer County Master Gardeners

Friday, November 2, 2012

Persimmons, Pears & Producers Co-op

If not pollinated, all of these pollination variant types of persimmons will be astringent until very soft.
Maru ("chocolate", Nagamaru, Hyakume & Nishimura Wase ("coffee cake") persimmons, (l. to r. in pairs)
This month our orchard is selling some of our persimmons and Asian pears through the Sierra Foothills Producers Cooperative We are offering maru ("chocolate"), fuyu and hachiya persimmons as well as later varieties of Asian pear.

Through the Sierra Foothills Producers Cooperative you can order local grass-fed, hormone free beef, lamb, pork and chicken, as well as eggs, honey, olive oil, jams, mandarins, persimmons and other produce and cheese. This month free range turkeys are also available. Orders are made online and then you choose one of four locations to pick up your order.  Locations are Otow Orchard (in Granite Bay), Sinclair Family Farm (in Penryn), Smoky's (in Truckee) and Tahoe Wellness (in Kings Beach). The next delivery from the Sierra Foothills Producers Cooperative to our orchard will be Friday, Nov. 19th from 4:00-5:00. Orders must be sent in by 4:00 PM Friday, Nov. 9th.   

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Fuyu "Five for Four" Coupon

We've been picking a lot of fuyu persimmons for the fruit stand.  Fuyu persimmons  are sweet when they're firm, there's no need to wait and eat them when they're soft.  Fuyus are sometimes called "apple persimmon" in stores because you can eat them when they're firm like an apple.  Usually fuyus are seedless, but occasionally they do have seeds.
From Oct.  30th to Nov. 11th you can use the coupon below to get a free pound of fuyu persimmons if you buy four pounds.   Just print out the coupon and bring it with you to the fruit stand. 

Buy 4 lbs. of Fuyu Persimmons
at Regular Price, Get the 5th lb. Free 

Coupon valid from Oct. 30 to Nov 11, 2012 at 
 6232 Eureka Rd., Granite Bay, CA
(916) 791-1656 
 Hours: Tue.– Sat. 9am to 6pm, Sun. 10am –5pm 
Closed on Mon.

This coupon is good for one free pound of fuyu of equal or lesser value when you buy 4 lbs.  Limit one coupon per shopping trip or day. Must present coupon at time of purchase. Not valid with other offers. Coupon cannot be redeemed for cash.

Hoshigaki update

Toshio demonstrating hoshigaki at the Open House
Hoshigaki (Japanese hand-dried persimmon) is now for sale at the fruit stand.  We expect that by the weekend we should have both grade A and grade B hoshigaki available.  We grade the hoshigaki as premium, grade A or B, depending on how soft it is.  Ripeness of the persimmons, how fast they dry,  temperature, humidity and how much a persimmon gets massaged are all factors that affect the softness of the finished hoshigaki.  If you'd like to pick up more than a pound of hoshigaki, it's a good idea to call ahead and have us set some aside for you.   

We haven't yet started sending out the hoshigaki through mail order.  Only premium grade hoshigaki is sent out by mail order and we don't yet have enough to start mailing it out.  We expect to begin sending out mail orders around Thanksgiving time. If you'd like to order hoshigaki through mail order, please get your order in as soon as possible Orders are filled in the order they're received, and we fill orders as soon as we can, but since the process is weather dependent, some of it is beyond our control.   

Hoshigaki-making is in full swing at the orchard.  We are spending lots of time peeling fresh persimmons and stringing them up in pairs.  The pairs of persimmons are then strung together in pairs and hung on sticks to dry.  The drying racks are almost completely full of these drying pairs of persimmons.   The sticks of drying persimmons first hang outside in the sun for a number of days until they develop a second more leathery skin on the outside and become soft enough to massage.  We massage each persimmon to break up the pulp inside and help it dry more evenly. Lately we've spend hours a day massaging the hoshigaki, with Chis and Tosh even spending hours massaging at night.

After the first massage, the persimmons usually go to the "hot house", which is a small warm out-building with windows and doors that can open, with good air circulation.  After spending a few days in the hot house, the persimmons are massaged again and brought to the big drying room, where they'll get massaged and checked every few days.  The persimmons have become finished hoshigaki after they develop a powdery sugar on the surface.  This drying process takes around 6 weeks on average, depending on the weather.  In cooler or more damp weather the process can take 10 weeks.

This year, the persimmons ripened a few weeks earlier than usual, so we were able to start peeling earlier.  We have had mostly warm weather up until this week with only a few days of rain so far this fall, so the drying process has been going along quickly so far.  When the weather gets colder, the persimmons start softening on the trees.  Eventually the persimmons become too soft to peel, so we'll have to stop.  After that we won't be able to start any new persimmons to become hoshigaki and make up this season's supply. 

In the photo above you can see Toshio talking about hoshigaki to visitors at our recent open house.  At this open house we had a raffle and the first prize winner was unreachable by the phone number on the ticket.  If you have a stub for ticket 880049, bring it to the fruit stand after Nov. 30th and you can get the prize, (a pound of premium hoshigaki).


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