Yes, I replaced the photo. The previous one did show more wagashi on a tray, but just one persimmon in this shot is certainly more impressive, I think.
Persimmon is a special fruit for wagashi confectioners. Traditionally, people have dried astringent persimmons to make hoshigaki (dried persimmon). You may think that drying was a desperate effort to somehow make use of the otherwise-useless astringent fruit, but that is not the case. The astringent variety was (and still is) preferred for making hoshigaki because it turns out to be sweeter when dried. I've read that astringent persimmons have a higher sugar content than sweet persimmons (such as fuyu), believe it or not.
It is said that a dried persimmon is three to four times sweeter than a fresh persimmon. In olden days when sugar was valuable and hard to get, the sweet dried fruit must have been a beloved dessert. This is a good reason to believe that it was served with tea, and perhaps that is why hoshigaki is often said to be the origin of wagashi: sweets (almost always) served with green tea. But that is not the only reason why the persimmon is a special fruit.
There is a principle widely shared by confectioners: "Wagashi shouldn't be sweeter than hoshigaki." Overly sweet wagashi is not considered decent or elegant; it makes you think "Oh, this is too much!" To avoid that, confectioners seem to have chosen the somewhat mild sweetness of dried persimmon as a guideline. Think about that; Japanese confectioners have passed down this guideline for years-- could be hundreds of years. To me, the hoshigaki guideline sounds more... how shall I say... naturalistic? and I like it. It doesn't sound as dry as, "The sugar content of wagashi should be less than XX%. "
* Wagashi by Nishigawaya
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Posted by obachan at 10/31/2007 11:58:00 PM