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Stories from the valley

Sweet History

Contributed by Jim Morris

It’s just a few short turns from suburbia, but traveling to Otow Orchard in Granite Bay is a delightful diversion into history that precious few people have savored.

In addition to their fruit stand, roving Canada Geese and gargantuan Asian Pears, Otow Orchard is one of a handful of farms that produce hoshigaki, the ancient Japanese art of hand-drying persimmons. If you haven’t experienced hoshigaki, it’s a unique sweet and delicate dried fruit, somewhat akin to a dried date or fig.


Right now it’s harvest and drying season.  It’s all done by hand. After picking, the fruit is peeled, tied to a string and hung over a drying rack in the sun. After about a week comes the painstaking process of kneading the persimmons – done by 100-year old Helen Otow, who has amazing energy and just the right touch. She has carried out this work for more than 60 years!

Her daughter Chris and son-in-law Tosh Kuratomi devote long hours on the farm every day, most times until midnight. This is far from a lucrative endeavor, if your gauge is earning a mountain of money. The rewards are great, however, if you value family, tradition and making new friends far and wide. They also provide a steady flow of produce to the nearby Food Bank.


Richard Shoemaker, a regular customer for more than a decade, put it best when he told me “It’s a love project for this family.”

Take a short trip to Granite Bay to support this family, see this historic process and taste the exquisite results. They should have hoshigaki available well into the new year.