In Kansas City, autumn is heralded by a crunchy carpet of brown leaves, brilliant yellow ash trees…and pumpkins! It’s been my favourite season since I was a kid, filled with anticipation for Halloween, my birthday, and Christmas. My mom sent me these pictures of our neighbourhood (thanks for making me homesick, Mom!) :
Japan is very lovely in the fall (a lot of kids here are very surprised that other countries also have four seasons, yup), but since we’re in one of the only places in Japan that’s NOT mountainous, the fall colours in Tatebayashi are fairly muted. But it can be very lovely nonetheless! Here’s a picture from the fifth floor of our city hall:
(In the summer it’s so hot that a haze hides the mountains. When I first arrived in August 3 years ago, I didn’t realise we were within sight of the mountains for months! It wasn’t until November when, one cold day, I suddenly saw them from out our bedroom window on the horizon.)
In Japan, Halloween isn’t the big holiday it is back home. Costume parties abound – Shibuya in particular is known for is packed streets on Halloween – but trick-or-treating isn’t really a thing. As a consequence, very few people decorate their houses for Halloween – and there are no jack o’lanterns!
American pumpkins and Japanese pumpkins (kabocha) are pretty different – my kids are always amazed when I show them pictures of pumpkin patches full of big orange pumpkins. Kabocha are sold in the grocery store year-round. They’re small and green and used in cooking, especially boiled and in tempura (and you can eat the skin!) They’re also fairly sweet, and last year I was able to make some decent pumpkin pie out of them.
When my first October in Japan rolled around, I was a little disappointed by the lack of big orange pumpkins. And then I quickly realised there was something else orange to be seen around the neighbourhood: persimmons!
Persimmons, called kaki, are everywhere. A common sight in late October/November are persimmon trees, leaves shed but covered in fruit, drooping over a small step-ladder left out by the family for harvesting. You can’t go more than a couple blocks without seeing one of these trees!
There are two types of persimmons here: hachiya and fuyu. Hachiya persimmons are astringent when unripe, so you have to wait until they’re soft to eat! I have a small basket of hachiya persimmons I bought from the store ripening on the shelf.
My favourite is the fuyu persimmon. The ones we buy in the store are charmingly square-shaped from above, and if you cut them right, you can see a lovely star-like pattern! These don’t have to be soft to eat. The taste is sweet, but not too sweet. You can also eat the skin, but I find the texture to be a little too much.
There are tons of persimmons on sale in the grocery store now, so I decided to go ahead and try to make persimmon pie! I first imagined a kind made with a puree, like pumpkin pie, but I came across this recipe from the blog A Life of Little Pleasures and thought that it would be much nicer to enjoy the persimmons in chunks, like in apple pie.
It was delicious!
(A huge thanks to Paul, because my goodness, my weak little hands are not cut out for baking; he came to my rescue and kneaded all the dough for me. Thank youuuu!)
Makes one pie. Adapted from Fuyu Persimmon Pie.
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup butter, chilled and diced
- 3/4 cup iced water
1. Mix together the flour, sugar, and salt.
2. Cut the butter into the flour. Makes pea-sized crumbs.
3. Gradually drizzle in the iced water until the dough comes together. Lightly knead.
4. Roll the dough into two balls and flatten into discs. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
5. When it’s pie time, roll out one of the discs on a floured surface and set it in a pie pan. Fill the pie with the filling. Roll out the second disc and top the pie.
- 5 fuyu persimmons, peeled (and cored if needed), sliced into thin wedges
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- pinch of salt
- juice from a lemon
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup melted butter
- 2 eggs
Preheat oven to 375F.
1. Mix persimmon slices, pumpkin pie spice, salt, and lemon juice.
2. Add fruit to pie shell.
3. In a bowl, whisk together sugar, melted butter, and eggs until smooth.
4. Pour mixture over persimmon in pie shell. Cover with top crust.
5. Brush top crust with a beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar. If you do a blanket layer of crust, make sure to cut a couple slits to vent steam.
6. Bake the pie at 375° for 45 minutes until the crust is golden.
7. Let it cool for an hour.
I got too impatient, I only waited twenty minutes before cutting in, but with a nice heaping spoonful of ice cream plopped on top, it was heavenly!
Also – I just bought a circular loom and have discovered the joys of making quick, easy hats! So I worked on that while waiting for the pie to bake. Love this thing!