Fuyu For You
When I tell friends that I’ve never eaten a persimmon they looked at me in shock. How is that possible. Well I’ve had REPUBLIC OF TEA Persimmon White Tea–does this count? My lack of exposure to “the apple of the Orient” has now been corrected.
The persimmon (Diospyros kaki) is a native of China, and is widely cultivated throughout Asia. Japan, where it is very popular, it is called kaki. Aside from being very tasty, persimmons are also nutritious as they are a good source of fiber, vitamin C and beta carotene. The trick is NOT to eat unripe fruit. I made that mistake and it’s what I can only call bitter and well, fuzzy, furry even. Turns out I ate a Hachiya variety. After some research I found that this variety is rich in tannins, which are also found in red wine and tea. I persevered through this first taste and I have been rewarded.
China is the largest producer of persimmons, followed by Brazil, Japan, and Korea. The United States grows a comparatively smaller crop with most of the domestic persimmon crop coming from California. In Japan, New Year’s celebration food includes dried persimmons used as ritual decoration for the making of mochi, bun-shaped rice cakes made from steamed glutinous rice.
The acorn-shaped Hachiya (pronounced ‘hi-CHEE-ah’) is good for baking cookies and cakes. Keep in mind that it can take a few weeks for the large fruit to reach full sweetness. When they feel soft and squishy they are ready for use. To use in recipes place the Hachiya persimmons stem end down on a cutting board. Slice them in half, then scoop out the pulp. If your recipe calls for puree, place the pulp in a blender or food processor and pulse the blade until the pulp is smooth. I have used my potato masher with great success.
Tony Tantillo has a great tip for speeding up the ripening and eliminating most of the tannins: Place the fruit in the freezer for twenty-four hours. Remove from the freezer and defrost. The fruit will soften so that you can use much as you would a perfectly ripe persimmon. So keeping this trick in mind storing persimmons at room temperature is best.
The smaller, squatter Fuyu (pronounced ‘FOO-you’) it is crisp, lightly sweet and crunchy, like a Fuji apple. According to Alice Waters in Chez Panisse Fruit Hachiya production has been in decline and Fuyu has been on the rise, mostly due to demand from Southeast Asian immigrants. This variety can be eaten as soon as it is picked. There’s a rocket salad with persimmons, pine nuts and pecorino on the café menu this week that sounds delicious. If one was to pair this starter with the grilled Hoffman Farm chicken breast with butternut squash, artichokes and potato has and pancetta–all would be right.
While you can just eat them fresh, pureed persimmon mixed with yogurt and honey for breakfast will brighten your morning.
The best thing about persimmons is that they have a unique flavor. Peak persimmon season runs from mid-October through January. So you have another month for fresh tastes. But remember for eating out of hand and in raw form—it’s Fuyu for you–and me.
Persimmon Products (dried and frozen persimmons)
FUYU PERSIMMON AND AVOCADO SALAD
Gourmet Magazine, December 2003
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 teaspoons water
1 1/2 tablespoons sweet white miso* (fermented soybean paste)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup olive oil
3 firm-ripe California avocados (1 1/2 lb total)
1 lb firm-ripe Fuyu persimmons, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded if necessary, and thinly sliced crosswise
2 bunches watercress (6 oz total), coarse stems discarded
Blend together lemon juice, water, miso, pepper, and salt in a blender until smooth. With motor running, add oil in a slow stream in several batches, blending until emulsified after each addition. Season with salt and pepper.
Halve, pit, and peel avocados, then thinly slice crosswise. Gently toss together avocados, persimmons, and 6 tablespoons dressing. Toss watercress with just enough dressing to coat (about 3 tablespoons) in another bowl. Divide persimmon mixture among 6 plates and top with watercress.