We are creatures of habit. And this, more than anything, applies to what we cook and eat. In Northern California where the standard fruit and vegetable selection regularly includes ten different varieties of apples, three different types of kale, and citrus fruit to satisfy a city, habit can be a very healthy thing. Every so often, however, it pays to pair habit with adventure, and buy those special items that only come available once a season: pomegranates, chestnuts, and, my absolute favorite, persimmons. These little known fruits that make their debut in late October look beautiful, and if ripened to the right point, pack some of the most intense, delicious flavor that I know. And while I normally associate them with my hometown in Italy (where my father is currently harvesting them by the bushel), they are abundant in my new hometown, Marin, where my dear friend Kristine just dropped off her newly plucked crop. A toast to friendship and family! Come and cook with us!
Persimmons are neither widely known nor well understood, as there are several types of persimmons available on the market, with varying instructions for how to use and when to eat (it’s unfortunate they don’t come with a users manual). In fact, Jessica’s first California persimmon experience landed her with a mouthful of mealy, astringent flesh and a disdain for the fruit I simply do not understand. To keep you from having the same experience, here is my quick guide: the most common variety of persimmon is the heart-shaped Hachiya persimmon (astringent and mealy while unripe – best for baking not eating, but incredible sweet and completely edible when ripened to softness), and the squat Fuyu (non-astringent, perfect to eat raw, and most delicious when their flesh is soft but not mushy). Nutritionally, persimmons are rich in fiber and low in calories and fats, contain healthy levels of vitamin A, C and B6, and are packed with the minerals manganese and potassium.
When eating persimmons, as in most things, I tend to keep it simple. I feed my boys (and myself, and now Jessica) the Fuyu type raw, quartered eaten like an apple. These persimmons are an incredible fall fruit that go well with pomegranates in a green salad made with butter leaf salad and drizzled with olive oil and a dash of balsamic and topped with a little goat cheese for some extra flair. Or you serve them roasted as an accompaniment to roasted pork or poultry (simply slice them and roast them on a baking sheet at 350 to 375°F for 20 to 30 minutes).
Hachiya persimmons, though mealy when unripe and best for baking at this time, can be served as a self-contained dessert when they are very ripe. Simply cut off the top and eat the flesh with a spoon, leaving only the skins behind. My parents swore by this for our Hachiya tree when I was a kid and, honestly, ice cream didn’t stand a chance. If, however, fancy persimmon presentation is what you are yearning for try this recipe for Persimmon Pudding that I found on Joy the Baker. Originally published in 1976 in a school newspaper in Indiana, the Persimmon state of the U.S., this unique presentation is sure to wow your fall table! Come and cook with us!