National | Regional voices: Chubu

Don't eat Jiro persimmons, drink them, town in Mie urges

Chunichi Shimbun

Members of the Nippon Bartenders Association’s branch in Mie Prefecture have created original cocktails that make use of typhoon-damaged Jiro persimmons — a local specialty of the town of Taki that is now in harvest — that cannot be shipped for sale.

Until now, persimmons unfit for sale had been consumed by producers and their neighbors. But since ripe Jiro persimmons have sugar content as high as 17 degrees Brix, the Taki Municipal Government, concerned about excessive sugar intake by residents, asked the association to develop cocktails based on the fruit.

The bartenders developed eight cocktails, including a Moscow Mule variation made by grating half a Jiro persimmon and mixing it with orange juice, vodka and ginger ale, a concoction that involves mixing the fruit with ume (plum) liquor and a nonalcoholic drink made by mixing persimmons and oranges with crushed ice.

The cocktails have been offered at 14 bars in the prefecture since Nov. 9 after debuting at a tasting event Nov. 6 at City Hall. Taki Mayor Yukio Kubo, who sampled a nonalcoholic Moscow Mule at the event, said, “There is the appealing flavor of persimmons.”

“Even if they are damaged, they taste as good (as undamaged ones),” said Chitose Michigami, 47, head of the association’s Mie branch. “We hope to cooperate with other branches so (the new cocktails) will be offered widely.”

Persimmon producers will provide bars with the damaged fruit at low prices, and the bars plan to offer the new cocktails until the end of the month.

The project for utilizing damaged persimmons started after officials in the municipal government found out five years ago that medical expenses for treating lifestyle-related diseases such as diabetes and hypertension are roughly 20 percent higher in persimmon-producing areas compared with other areas in town.

After looking into the results of past health checkups and interviews about people’s dietary habits, they found that residents in persimmon producing districts consumed larger numbers of damaged persimmons — three to five a day for some people — resulting in high triglyceride levels.

Although the officials have not concluded that persimmons are the reason for the high medical expenses, they started looking for other ways to make use of damaged persimmons in light of the possibility that eating too many could have adverse effects.

Shipping about 600 tons of Jiro persimmons a year, Taki is the second-largest producer of the fruit after Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture.

“Due to typhoons and other reasons, about 10 percent of the persimmons can’t be shipped every year,” said Kenichi Ono, 69, a grower who heads a group of persimmon producers at a local agricultural cooperative. “We can’t bear to see them disposed of. We hope (the cocktails) will help increase consumers of damaged persimmons, which should also contribute to increasing farmers’ income.”

This section features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published Nov. 7.