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Friday, January 31, 2014

Persimmons



Persimmons:

The persimmon is the edible fruit of a number of trees in the genus "diospyros".   There are many species of "diospyros" that bear fruit that is inedible to humans, but there are several that bear fruit that is edible to humans.   The most cultivated species of persimmon is the Asian persimmon, also known as the Japanese persimmon.  The color of the cultivated varieties ranges from yellow-orange to dark red-orange depending on the variety.   They vary in size from a half inch  to four inches in diameter and their shape is spherical, acorn, or pumpkin shaped.   The ripe fruit is high in glucose content and low in protein content.  Like the tomato the persimmon in terms of botanical morphology is a berry.  

There are two types of persimmon fruit: astringent and non-astringent.   The heart shaped "Hachiya" is the most common variety of astringent persimmon.  Astringent persimmons contain very high levels of soluble tannins and are unpalatably astringent (furry tasting) if eaten before completely softened.   The non-astringent persimmon is squat like a tomato and is most commonly called a "Fuyu" persimmon.  Non-astringent  persimmons are less astringent before ripening and loose more of their tannic quality sooner.  They can be consummed when still very firm and remain edible when very soft.  

China is the world's largest producer  of persimmons followed by Brazil, Japan, and Korea.  Italy, Israel, and the U.S. in that order grow considerable less.   The American persimmon is native to the eastern U.S. and is higher in nutrients like Vitamin C, calcium, iron, and potassium than the Japanese persimmon.  The American persimmon is traditionally eaten is a special steamed pudding in the Midwest, and sometimes the timber from its tree is used as a substitute for ebony.

Compared to apples persimmons have higher levels of dietarty fiber, sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron and manganese, but lower levels of copper and zinc.  They also conatain vitamin C and provitamin A beta-carotene.  The persimmon contains phytochemicals such as catechin and gallocatechin as well as compounds like betalinic acid which is under preliminary research for potential anti-cancer activity.

Persimmons are eaten fresh, dried, raw or cooked.  When eaten fresh, they are usually eaten like an apple or cut into quarters.  With some varieties it is best to peel the skin first.  One way of eating a  persimmon is to remove the top leaf with a paring knife and scoop out the flesh with a spoon.  Unripe persimmons contain the soluble tannin shiboul, which upon contact with a weak acid polymerizes in the stomach and forms a gluey coagulum, a food ball that can affix with other stomach matter and often needs to be removed surgically.  So, don't eat unripe persimmons!

Persimmons are available nearly year round.  California persimmons are available from Spetember  to November.  Fuyus from Japan and Israel are usually shipped between November and January.  Brazilian persimmons are on the market between February  and April.  New Zealand persimmons are available from March to May, and Chile persimmons are available after May.

Select persimmons without greenish or yellow skins.  Avoid those that show cracks or splits.  The four leaves should still be on the stem.  A Hachiya in good condition will often need to be ripened at home.  Leave it out at room temperaturae, or to ripen more quickly put in a paper bag with a banana or apple.   A fully ripe Hachiya will be slighatly wrinkled or have a few brown spots.  At this very soft stage, almost like a firm jelly, it is at the peak of perfection.   Refrigerate or eat Fuyus while they are still fairly firm, about like a ripe pear.  

Persimmons can be blanched to remove the skin easily.  Dip the persimmon in boiling water for a few seconds and then into cold water.  A ripe Hachiya can be halved or quartered  and the flesh scooped out with a spoon.    A Fuyu can be eaten out of hand like an apple.  There is no need to peel the skin.    A soft ripe persimmon can be wrapped in plastioc or foil and eaten partially frozen like a sorbet.   Persimmon pureed with a little lemon juice makes a good ice cream topping. 

So.........  Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.

Simple but good:

Broiled Persimmons

2 ripe persimmons, halved lengthwise and pitted
4 tablespoon of brown sugar
2 tablespoon of unsalted butter

Preheat the broiler.
Place the persimmons in a small greased baking pan.  Sprinkle each half with a tablespoon of brown sugar and dot with a half tablespoon of butter.  
Broil for 2 minutes or until brown sugar begins to bubble.
Serve hot