If you are in the throes of planning your holiday menu for this year’s celebrations, you are probably trying to balance trotting out the tried and true favourites while considering wowing your family and friends with something new and exciting as well. And bright, delicious persimmons most certainly will!
Basically there are two major varieties of persimmons, astringent and non-astringent. Astringency is the characteristic some foods have that causes the mouth to recoil slightly; banana peel, chokecherries and quince are good examples of astringent fruits that, due to their tannins cause your mouth to pucker a little.
Non-astringent Fuyu persimmons are firm, like an apple, and can be eaten as such, skin and all or allowed to ripen, which softens them up and brings out their unique flavor, reminiscent of mango or papaya. Technically they are a berry, so there is no stone, or core, or pit; you can eat the whole thing!
The other major variety are known as Hachiya, and are slightly bitter and possess an off-putting, astringent mouthfeel when under-ripe, so they must be left to ripen until they look like they’re ready for the compost. The best way to ripen them is to put them in a brown paper bag and let the ethylene gas they produce help to speed the process. This can take up to a couple weeks. When ripe, Hachiya are best eaten by removing the leaf-like stem known as the calyx and then scooping out the insides, which at this point is soft and almost creamy, sweet and delicious. It’s like a delectable exotic jam, perfect on a cheeseboard alongside some brie or mascarpone.
While most persimmons come from China, Korea and other Asian countries, they are also grown in Europe, Australia and North America. Even Canada produces a variety similar to Hachiya, developed specifically to withstand the rigours of our cold winters. You could be the first on your block to grow your own; the persimmon tree is particularly lovely, with large flowers resembling orchids adorning its many branches. Of related interest, persimmon wood has a long and noble history in North America; a beautiful and strong hardwood, it has been as a preferred wood for flooring, golf clubs, pool cues, drumsticks and fine furniture. But it is the persimmon on top of fine china, not underneath, that we are excited about this Christmas, and with that in mind we have visions of the jolly fruit dancing in our heads, and this, a deceptively simple recipe for an Apple and Persimmon Tarte Tatin that will make any table shine while satisfying those in your group who are longing for a traditional apple pie!