On November 19, 2007, Alexandra and I embarked on her first trip to the four story apartment building on Cedar between Oxford and Spruce Streets in Berkeley to harvest a basket’s worth of hachiya persimmons. This was my second annual mid-autumn foraging mission to the building, a building I first became acquainted with through a friend of mine who once lived there. In the fall of 2006 after I professed my unfettering love for hachiya persimmons, the friend invited me to her building to harvest from the persimmon tree in the backyard. This was Alexandra’s first ever persimmon harvest, and the sheer volume and beauty of the fruit up close was overwhelming. She used the word ‘euphoria’ to describe what she felt as she harvested her first hachiya persimmon on Cedar Street.
Last weekend, I met with Alexandra to interview her about her hachiya foraging mission. She recounted a story from a recent trip to Japan where- for the first time- she saw designer fruit, specifically designer hachiya persimmon. What is designer fruit? Designer fruit might sound like an improbable term, but in Japan, many people give fruit as gifts, and if you are giving fruit as a gift, you go to special lengths to ensure that the fruit is the most beautiful fruit, completely flawless in appearance, and the most sumptuous in flavor. Alexandra approached one store front window, a small store that sold nothing but designer fruit, and was shocked to find that the fruit had a designer price as well- 30 USD for a single hachiya persimmon.
Upon returning to Oakland, Alexandra decided to send her mother a beautiful gift of hachiya persimmons a la the designer fruit of Japan, wrapping the entire package in orange tissue paper. She included about ten persimmon in the package, and her mother followed Alexandra’s careful instructions to allow adequate time for the persimmon to ripen. Her mother used the hachiya to make a persimmon pudding for a holiday dinner party, following the recipe of Lindsey Schere. Gleefully, Alexandra reported the following: “Each [persimmon] brings joy to so many people. Some people at the party had never heard of persimmon. It brought joy to a whole holiday party across the country.
Ultimately, Alexandra and I harvested 29 persimmon, and most were gifted to family and friends throughout the persimmon season. Alexandra has gone on to forage more widely in her Rockridge neighborhood, routinely harvesting meyer lemons, avocado, lemon verbena, and lettuce.