Persimmons in January

 

 

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This is the perfect fruit to seek out in the icy cold month of January. Fill your fruit bowl and let them ripen (note- they take forever, but they’re so worth it). Here’s our little primer on the varieties and how to enjoy them.

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. The astringency of a persimmon is legendary, it will cause your face to scrunch like no other. The fuyu is less astringent, but still needs time to ripen. When it starts to look like its going bad, that’s your cue to dive in.

 

Cutting into a ripe fuyu persimmon

Cutting into a ripe fuyu persimmon. Non-astringent Fuyu persimmons are firm, like an apple, let them ripen so they soften a bit. This brings out their unique flavor, reminiscent of mango or papaya. Technically they are a berry, so there is no stone, 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.

 

Hachiya persimmons

Hachiya persimmons

 

While most persimmons come from China, Korea or Australia, there is a Canadian variety. It was 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’re after, and with that in mind, here  is a deceptively simple recipe for an Apple and Persimmon Tarte Tatin  that will truly showcase this remarkable fruit.

 

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