food and wineIssue 19

In Season: Persimmons

shutterstock_245253802 [Converted]-01

By Alex Cantatore

No, this “divine fruit” isn’t a tomato, or an apple, or a tiny pumpkin. The small, orange-red persimmon is delicious and supernatural in its own right.

The persimmon’s mystical powers are renowned across the world; it has a reputation for scaring away tigers in Korea, while Ozark folklore claims the shape of a persimmon’s seed can forecast the pending winter.

Even the persimmon’s scientific name, Diospyros, is linked to the supernatural. From the ancient Greek, it translates to “Wheat of Zeus.” The modern Greeks continue this legacy, calling the persimmon Iotos – a link to the famed lotus of Homer’s “Odyssey.”

There are many, many varieties of the persimmon, including what we often call the date-plum. It was this persimmon, native to southwest Asia and southeast Europe, which inspired the Greeks. The Americas have their own native variety of the persimmon, usually eaten by Midwesterners in a steamed pudding; our common word for the persimmon traces its lineage to the Algonquian Native Americans, who termed this variety the putchamin or pessamin.

The Asian persimmon is the most commonly eaten variety today. Known as shizi in Chinese, or kaki in Japanese, this fruit is sweet, tangy, and somewhat fibrous. It’s no surprise that China leads the world in persimmon production, with Korea and Japan rounding out the top three.

The Asian persimmon is now grown across the world — including in California. The most common cultivar, “Hachiya,” has a waxy shell surrounding its almost gelatinous, pulpy flesh.

Those common Hachiya persimmons are astringent in nature, high in tannins and almost inedible before ripening. The tomato-shaped, non-astringent persimmon — often referred to as a fuyu — is more commonly grown in Stanislaus County. A third variety of persimmon, the pollination-variant non astringent, has brown flesh — and is highly sought after at specialty markets.

You can eat persimmons fresh, dried, raw, or cooked. When it comes to fresh persimmons, just scoop out the flesh, or break the persimmon in half and eat from the inside out. In Asian countries, the dried persimmon is a common snack, dessert, or ingredient; the Koreans use them to make a traditional, spicy punch.

The leaves can even be used to make tea. The Indian persimmon is renowned for its uses in folk medicine. And persimmon wood is often used to create paneling, billiard cues, bows, and even golf club heads — before the transition to metal clubs.

Give this tasty, divine fruit a try in your next baked good, salad, or simply as a snack. Perhaps you too will see why so many cultures think the persimmon simply must be otherworldly.


 

Cranberry Persimmon Crispshutterstock_246327286 (1)

Ingredients

Filling
6 persimmons, tops trimmed, sliced into quarters
1 cup fresh halved cranberries
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon lemon zest – sprinkle nutmeg

Topping
1 1/2 cups flour
8 tablespoons cold butter
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions

  1. Lightly spray a 10-inch cake pan or cast-iron skillet with cooking spray, then preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2.  Combine the filling ingredients in a bowl and stir until combined. Pour into the prepared baking dish.
  3.  Cut in the butter with the flour, making sure all pieces are the size of a pencil eraser. Using moderation, stir in the oats, sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Make sure that the mix is evenly distributed — even though it will still be clumpy.
  4. Pour the topping over the fruit and spread evenly. Place this in the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until the topping is crisp and golden.
  5.  Let the crumble cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

 

Persimmon Pumpkin Pieshutterstock_230742502

Ingredients

Filling

1 cup canned pure pumpkin
2 6- to 7-ounce ripe Fuyu persimmons, trimmed, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup mascarpone
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 large eggs, at room temperature
powdered sugar, for dusting

Crust
– vegetable oil cooking spray
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 cup chilled unsalted butter, diced
3 tablespoons mascarpone cheese, chilled
2 to 3 tablespoons apricot preserves

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees for the crust. Lightly spray a 9-inch pie dish with cooking spray.
  2. Blend the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor until combined. Add the butter and mascarpone cheese and blend until clumpy and moist. Roll the dough into a ball and drop two inch pieces of dough over the bottom and sides of the pie dish. Form a smooth crust by pressing the dough with moist fingers and prick the dough with a fork.
  3. Bake for about 25 minutes or until the crust until the edge is browned and the center of the crust is a pale gold. Transfer the crust to a work surface. Brush the bottom and sides of the crust with apricot preserves.
  4. In a food processor, combine the filling ingredients, pumpkin and persimmon. Blend until smooth. Add the sugar, mascarpone, cream, cornstarch, cinnamon, salt, and eggs. Blend until smooth and pour into the cooked crust.
  5. Bake the pie about 35 minutes or until cracks appear around the edges. Cool the pie on a rack.
  6. Dust with powdered sugar before serving. Cut into slices and serve.

 

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