Sunday, 19 August 2012

Homemade Kaishibu/Persimmon Tannin

Every house in this and the surrounding mountain villages has at least a few persimmon trees planted for the autumn fruit.  They are basically divided into two categories; sweet or astringent. The sweet kaki fruit can be eaten when it ripens off the tree.

There were very few sources of sugar in Japan until the country was flooded with Snickers and friends after WWII. These persimmons were a real treat in days long ago. The astringent ones must be semi dried in the sun before they are edible. The tartness evaporates and you can find countless varieties of these naturally sugar-coated candied persimmon jelly fruits made with this basic sun dried technique all over Japan.

It is these astringent types that are the source of a tannin when they are still green in August. The simplest way to use the fruit to dye is to simply grate it and squeeze the pulp and paint the sticky tannin heavy juice onto whatever it is you want to dye. It should absorb deeply into the material or it will simply flake off after a few hours in the sun. After coating the juice in/on, simply place it in the direct sunlight and wait until it turns golden brown. You can hang it or place it flat on the ground. The point is to get as many direct rays and heat as quickly as possible. (This works on paper as well.)

Japanese used the persimmon dye as a simple waterproofing for umbrellas, tools etc. and as a coating to make katazome stencil paper. In the past few years, the price of the bottled tannin has gone down and it seems everyone is dying something with it. Besides being a little messy to work with, taking time and needing good weather, it is relatively easy to use and the results are usually good. There are no 'expert' persimmon juice dyers like there are with indigo and other natural dyes. There has been no 'bible' or extensive research of it's history and usages been published as far as I know.

Takeshima san and I took Geiger for a walk and stumbled upon some persimmons fallen from a tree and we quickly gathered them and took them back to the house and I showed her how to process them. She was a little leery of how simple the process was as there is a rumor out there that it is tricky to use.



  She painted the squeezed juice on a few meters of her antique market find  with a regular kid's paintbrush. We will see how deep the brown color becomes in the next few weeks as they soak up ultra-violet sun rays.  The persimmon juice/ kakishibu tannin(柿渋)purchased has been processed and goes on much lighter than this and would take several repeated coatings. This 'grate, squeeze and use right away' technique is the caveman way. But it works!




10 comments:

  1. really like the stripey bit, and those flowers are great fun. i would love to find the north country equivalent of astringent persimmon, but fear that black walnut is the closest we come to it. no matter, i like the look of kakishibu, and the fact that it's caveman style!

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    1. Velma, thanks to you I started reading about other sources of tannin dyes in ancient times. The rabbit hole is deep!

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  2. Hi Bryan - may I ask about the persimmon dye? From the photos it appears you use green (unripe) persimmon for dyeing? I have a sweet persimmon tree - if I wait for the fruit to ripen it is the beginning of our winter (Australia) and we don't have enough sun for drying/dyeing.

    Once again, thanks for sharing your knowledge!

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    1. Hi Joy. The sweet persimmons will just go moldy if you peel them and hang them in the sun to make candied fruit like the Japanese do for the astringent ones. To make dried fruit they should be processed in a proper dryer. There isn't enough tannin in the sweet ones to make a dye I've been told but haven't tried myself.

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    2. Neki tried the edible kaki and shesays it works. So give that a try for the sweet ones. I don't think the sweet ones will dry in the sun. Peel them and dunk them in a strong vodka to kill germs and give it a try. Two weeks in semi strong sun is enough. Don't let the ran get on them. Bryan

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  3. thank you for this post. that's basically what i did, but was leery too of having missed some important step.i was working w. some gifted edible kakis, and they seem to work:)

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  4. what fun! there used to be a persimmon tree in my neighbor's back yard when i was growing up. i remember grams making persimmon cookies from the fruit that dropped on our side of the fence. i'm guessing they were the sweet ones as she used to let them get all soft and mooshey (she called this "ripe") on the window sill before eating them or using them in the cookies.

    i've dyed with black walnut, citrus fruits, and various other plants (including indigo), though have never tried persimmon. i will have to give it a try sometime!

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  5. Thanks for posting this. I have a huge persimmon tree in my backyard and am experimenting. Tried blending up the green ones with water, and soaking fabric in the "smoothy" mess. I am getting some color but very light. Will try your method. ~Kim Meuli Brown

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  6. Will it work on paper, steamed for a few hours or does it need direct UV light and time?

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    1. I think you need the UV strong and warm. Bryan

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