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Ah, Persimmons!

Ah, Persimmons!

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When I was little, the delivery of a package of persimmons signaled approach of the holidays. Our Japanese family friends sent us kaki each year, plucked straight from their backyard trees. The perfect little fruits arrived carefully wrapped in pretty paper, looking almost too lovely to eat. They made a stunning centerpiece before they disappeared, one by one.

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Then and now, persimmons strike me as the edible embodiment of autumn, with (depending on the variety) a crispness between apple and pear or soft, custard-like texture, a floral, clove-like sweetness, and a color that matches the turning leaves. In season from October to February, they are used in baked goods, holiday puddings, salads, salsas, and more. I prefer them eaten just as they are as a snack or a simple dessert.

Two persimmon varieties are most common in the United States, and it's important to know the difference between the two before you take your first bite.

The Fuyu persimmon (top photo) resembles an orange tomato and can be eaten when slightly underripe and crisp, or when it yields to gentle pressure. Its mellow sweetness tastes wonderful when it's sliced and added to salads, or simply eaten alone, like an apple. My friend Yukari has a recipe for Sunomono of Persimmons and Daikon, a vinegared dish that's easy to make and a good element for a bento lunch.

The Hachiya is a little larger, elongated, with a slightly pointy bottom. It's not ripe until it's water-balloon soft, and then it is eaten by slicing off the top and spooning out the tender flesh, like pudding. (The Kyoto Foodie has great step-by-step photos of this.) Whatever you do, don't bite into a Hachiya that isn't ripe. It will make your mouth feel like a snail might feel after a salt shower. This persimmon's tannins are the source of its tongue-curling astringency, but they're broken down by the ripening process, and the fruit becomes sweet. In Japan, Hachiya are peeled, hung to dry, and massaged for a dried treat called hoshigaki.

Today, the packages of persimmons no longer arrive in the mail. But a few years ago, when my grandmother died, we found a pretty spot in the woods where she lived and planted a persimmon tree in her honor. It was a leafless little stump, so we folded white paper cranes to hang on its bare branches. After a few years of maturing, grandma's tree began bearing the lovely little fruits that are one of the ephemeral gifts of autumn. The persimmons in the top photo came from her tree.


Persimmon Recipes

Photos: Top, Kim Cross; Bottom, courtesy Anauxite on Flickr

Native Oklahoma Persimmons 101

(Originally published Fall, 2010) While sitting at the breakfast table as a young girl, I could look out the window this time of year and watch the squirrels scamper like mad up and down the trees just across the fence line along our garden. They were scrambling to see who could harvest and store the highest number of Oklahoma native persimmons, the bright orange to dark amber fruits tempting them to work extra hard. Even by squirrel standards. Occasionally, I would wander outside, cross the fence and collect a few of the fruits I knew for sure were ripe, but at that age it was a guessing game for me.

Persimmon tree during autumn.

Sometimes I would choose them at a stage too firm and orange (green) and suffer the consequences of a horrible experience – something like all the moisture being sucked out of my mouth, with no way to quench the thirst! But the ripe persimmons…ah, those were nice. And still are.

My father brought some to our Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday and luckily not all of them got eaten. I have them now and I thought I would share a few basic pieces of information in case you are outside and see them in a tree somewhere. They are worth your harvesting time.

First, you need to make sure and pick them off the tree. They are rarely edible once they’ve fallen to the ground. Look for fruit that is still holding its shape well, but the skin has begun to ever-so-slightly wrinkle. You CAN pick them green and store them in a refrigerated container. I’ve read they will last quite well, but the humidity needs to be fairly high which might not work for other things in in your fridge.

If you wish to cook with them, there are some very nice recipes found online for persimmon bread, “butter,” kimchi, pudding, cheesecake, ice cream and even fudge. In other words, a whole buncha possibilities! I also think, however, they are nice just sitting on a plate looking lovely. Eating a persimmon “naked” tastes like a mix between a date, a mango, and sweetened cooked butternut squash. They have a pulp consistency of a very ripe apricot. I think pureeing the pulp and spreading it on a slice of nutty, med-soft white cheese (perhaps a Gruyere) would be a great snack. Mmm.

Here is what they look like when pulled open. Notice the seeds are quite large. - Photo by Rylee Roberts Here is a visual to compare the size of the six seeds versus the remaining pulp once the fruit has been de-seeded. Photo by Rylee Roberts. This should give you an idea of how much pulp you will get out of one medium sized fruit. The measure shown is a tablespoon, so the result is approximately 1/2 T. Photo by Rylee Roberts.

I featured a photo on our October 24th Silent Sunday post, so the picking season can go on for quite some time. We are actually quite lucky to have them here as Oklahoma borders the far west edge of where they are generally found in the U.S. Grocery stores across the country carry a few other varieties, however, and some of them are a beautiful yellow color.

Next time you are on a nature walk during an Oklahoma fall day, be sure to look up into the tree branches. You may get lucky and bring home something nice for your family and have fun learning about the treasures of our great state while you do. Enjoy!

Nature's perfect appetizer - Native Oklahoma Persimmons. Photo by Red Dirt Kelly

Ah, Persimmon: You Make Me Happy

The surprise of it: I had left the kitchen only a moment before. Now I came back in for some ordinary task and faced the extraordinary—a Kentucky persimmon at the end of our counter. Old love from my past: meet my present life.

It was definitely a persimmon, like the walnut-sized ones I loved sharing with my parents in beautiful Wayne County. Like the bloomy-skinned ones I had picked up along Burnett Hollow Road for years, until an enterprising farmer cleared the fence rows and cut down the precious source. Like the sweetly seedy ones that make me so happy at Snug Hollow Bed and Breakfast.

Three years ago, when I helped plant young persimmon trees in the London Ferrill Community Garden and Orchard, I had not expected them to thrive, and certainly not to bear fruit so quickly. I did not have a lot of faith in the small bare root slips we planted on a cold March morning in 2009.

Honestly, until the persimmon arrived on my kitchen counter, now that I live in a city, I had resigned myself to a life without this special fruit. All previous persimmon eating had depended on trees in the wild, and all the wild trees I knew in childhood and loved through mid-life had disappeared.

Three years of nature's work changed everything. Right in the heart of this sweet city, we now have magnificent Montmorency cherries in spring and persimmons in fall. We will have them on into the future, I hope and trust.

Each of this year's two fruit surprises plucked fruit-flavored strings that connect my urban life to my parents' agricultural lives and their parents' lives and on back through time in this food haven called Kentucky. I welcome these tastes back into my life, along with all the rich memories the juicy flavors evoke.

I again credit the foresight and sheer tenacity of my dear friend, our neighborhood "minister of food and gardening," Sherry Maddock. Because of Sherry and the neighbors who have planted fruit trees, nut trees, and brambles throughout the Martin Luther King Neighborhood, I may soon stop being surprised at the fruitfulness of our center-of-the-city home, and simply slurp the bounty.

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Persimmon biscotti

Walking in my neighborhood last month, I noticed some trash on the ground. There was a piece of paper, folded in half, with bold writing, “Free persimmons!” it announced. “Ripe when feels like a water balloon ready to burst.” Ah, I thought, the Hachiya.

People are often confused about persimmon varieties, such as the Fuyu and Hachiya. They are distant cousins: they may be persimmons in name and color but their textures are vastly different. The Fuyu persimmons are the in-hand edible persimmons, easily cut up when firm and put into simple fruit salads. The Hachiya persimmons, those are the acorn-shaped fruits, ones that you must patiently wait for a soupy ripeness to appear or be stung by their astringent bite. Or, if you are bold, targeting those water balloon ripe fruits, ready to be thrown across a college quad, hitting an unsuspecting first-year student. Not that I’ve ever done that before.

Neighbors offering free persimmons are not necessarily being generous: they are likely being crushed under the prolific fruit glowing from their trees. They know that if those baubles of fruit are ignored long enough, they will create a sloppy mess, rotting, long gone from the days of their lovely golden Christmas ornament glow. What better than to pawn them off on the neighborhood, Here, they seem to say, we give you this gift, hands open, smiling. There is a undercurrent of nervousness in the voice of the written request, so subtle, but there.

I am not deterred. The Hachiya persimmons make their way into my kitchen, not via my neighbors, but friends, also blooming with persimmons in a backyard tree. They don’t offer the fruit I plead. They eye me strangely, shrug and wave me on, and I scurry to the tree like a squirrel gathering nuts for the winter, shoving as many persimmons as I politely can, into a grocery bag.

My plans for Christmas cookies were dashed, realizing that these Hachiya take forever — well, a month — to ripen. My neighbors may have the ability to ignore their fruit for long periods, but me, ah!, I was impatient. A month for the soft, squishiness to appear, my water balloons ready to throw. While I had planned for some simple persimmon cookies initially, I changed my tact mid-recipe, thinking why not try biscotti? They last just as long as the ripening process, if frozen. Biscotti is reminiscent of warm winters cozied with coffee or tea. And so a new recipe was born. And the glaze is like the snowy white that I miss (kind of) from my past Midwestern winters, now just a little powder and ice-like slickness on the biscotti diagonals. If you skip the icing, no matter: the biscotti are just as good without it. The unglazed biscotti are perfect with a sweet cup of creamy coffee or latte, walnut nuttiness coming through in each bite.

While I found the persimmons a gift, unlike the desperate tone of the neighborhood note and the apathy of friends with bountiful trees, there is even a greater gift as of recently. A camera. A fancy camera. For Christmas! I took advantage of the black Friday deals in November and my upcoming paycheck to purchase a Canon Rebel T3i. I still am experimenting with it, sometimes relegating it to the corner of the kitchen and using the point-and-shoot for some shots. You might notice a gradual trend into the higher-end camera photos, once I feel more accustomed to its functions.

Cozy up and enjoy some biscotti. And you know there is gaping freezer space somewhere, where you can keep a store of persimmon puree all year round. If not for you, then for me.

Ah, Persimmons! - Recipes

Ah! Do you love the new layout? I am so, so excited to present this to you. I’ve been searching for a new layout for a while. I wanted a space that was more intuitive, more friendly to the various features.

Make sure to check out the recipe page- it’s my favorite part! As I continue to work on my food photography, I wanted a page that was visual. Gone are hyperlinks, in are lots of colorful pictures organized by categories.

I would love for you to check out this space and let me know what else you would like to see. Pros, Cons, ideas- throw them at me.

[This new space also means big things are coming.] I’ll be sharing that with you in the upcoming weeks.

Doesn’t this salad look bright and cheery?

Well, it taste exactly how it looks. Bright lemon, juicy persimmon and crunchy kale- perfect for dreary January.

If you try this recipe, let me know! Leave a comment, rate it, and tag your Instagram photos with #delishknowledge . I absolutely love seeing your creations. Happy cooking!

Lemony Persimmon Muffins

If you follow me on Twitter, you've heard about these Lemony Persimmon Muffins multiple times. If you don't, here's the story:

Last week my friend Cindy called and asked if I'd like some persimmons. She bought a bag of persimmons at the market, but they had very tough skin and weren't super sweet despite being completely ripe. I said as long as she was sure she did not want them, I'll take them and figure out what to do with them. That's how I inherited ten persimmons.

Typically, I love persimmons: I have memories of eating them when I was a little girl in Russia. But these were definitely not the prettiest or tastiest persimmons I've seen. I decided to bake with them. That's how I found a recipe for Persimmon Bread on Cooking Books blog.

Of course I had to make a few changes: that's just how I roll :) First, I made the bread recipe into muffins I also added lemon yogurt and a bit of sour cream instead of plain yogurt, took out cinnamon and added some lemon zest. My recipe is below.

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
zest of one lemon
3/4 cups lemon chiffon yogurt
1/4 cup sour cream
3 persimmons, peeled, pureed
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Preheat the oven to 350.
2. Line a muffin tin with muffin liners.
3. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and lemon zest.
4. In a separate bowl combine yogurt, sour cream, pureed persimmons, oil, egg and vanilla.
5. Incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and fill your muffins tins.
6. Bake for 25 minutes. Let the muffins cool before serving.

These muffins smelled amazing! They also rose quite beautifully in the oven, but "fell" as soon as I took them out. Le sigh.

As for the taste: you could definitely taste the lemon zest. The persimmon flavor wasn't strong: not sure if it's because of the persimmons themselves, or because the lemon was a bit overwhelming. Next time I'd definitely add some cubed persimmons into the mix for an added texture element.

Overall, this is a great treat for breakfast, brunch or as a snack.

Other than the typical banana bread, what do you bake with over-ripe fruit?

Pearsimmon Jam

But, as it turns out, it’s very hard to find persimmon canning recipes. I researched the heck out of it and found very few recipes, none in any of my go-to trusted sources, which led me to believe that maybe these glorious orange fruits were not safe for canning.

Marisa confirmed my suspicions, saying that a persimmon has a pH value right on the cusp of being unsafe for water bath canning, and suggesting that I try combining persimmons with another more acidic fruit plus a whole bunch of lemon juice.

So that’s exactly what I did, combining two winter fruits into a delightful little jam with a clever name to match.

Pear + Persimmon = Pearsimmon.

I mean, right? Clearly these two were meant to be together. In a jar. Then in my mouth.

Granted, it’s not the prettiest jam I’ve ever made.

Taylor says it looks a bit like Thanksgiving in a jar. Celery and carrots. Well, that’s not quite what he said, but let’s just all agree to not speak of what it really looks like. Because that would be a disservice to this surprisingly tasty jam.

I will say that knowing that persimmons had a less-acidic pH made me nervous. I wanted to be sure this jam was safe before I went sending it out to friends and family.

So I bought myself a little pH meter, just for piece of mind.

(If you’re curious, the USDA/National Center for Home Preservation guidelines state that any food with a pH higher than 4.6 [I’ve also seen it listed as 4.2] is not safe for water bath canning. Anything more acidic than that, or a lower number, would be presumed safe assuming proper sealing and canning practices. Here’s a useful post with some more information as to why.)

So my jam’s final pH of 3.6 is well within that definition. The addition of the pears and (probably more than) enough lemon juice took this jam from sketchy to well within the safe zone. Gave it a nice little zing, too.

I have a small problem when it comes to jam (well, condiments in general), and that’s a short term memory and a fridge that’s too deep. There’s probably 6 jars of opened jam in our fridge right now, and I can’t for the life of me remember when I made or opened them. They’ll sit there for a few more weeks until we throw them away. It’s wasteful and I hate it.

So, I’ve started to design my jam labels with this in mind, including space to fill in a “canned on” date as well as an “opened on” date. In the case of this jam, these bulb jars happened to have smooth spots for labels on both the front and back, so I designed a second informative date label for the back side. All you need to do is circle the month and year during which the jam was made, and then when you open the jam, fill in the blank below. Tada! No more wasted jams.

As far as how long homemade jams keep… properly sealed, I think it’s safe to say the jams are good for a year. Once opened, keep them refrigerated and consume within a month.

Can I just add that winter canning is entirely underrated? I’ve been doing quite a bit of it lately, exactly why you will find out soon enough, but it’s quite pleasant really, surrounding yourself in warm steam while the rest of the house is borderline frigid. You actually want to stand by the canning pot, as opposed to summertime canning, when you’re literally sweating buckets trying to churn out a few jars of precious jam. I truly think we should take better advantage of the fresh produce available to us during the winter months, from pears and persimmons to citrus and pomegranates… they all make for fabulous preserving (well, I’m still trying to figure out the pomegranates, but we’ll save that for another day).

Amaretto Persimmon Bundt Cake

The first time I had a Persimmon Bundt Cake was when my brother Chad (a P.E. teacher at an elementary school) was given one as a Holiday present by a student’s mom.
By the time I finished the cake there was still one more week left of Chad’s Winter Break- which meant I had to wait an entire week before getting the recipe from “The persimmon cake mom”!
During the first week back to school Chad brought me a bag of persimmons and a note that read: “Google Fuyu Bundt Cake”
Ah, yeah!
Thank you Mrs. Persimmon Mom!

The “Fuyu Persimmon Bundt Cake” recipe is everywhere on the internet, and was orignally published in Sunset Magazine in Oct 1978!
Wow, It’s been around for quite awhile- which is why I decided it definitely needed a facelift!

Preheat oven to 350
Grease and flour a bundt cake pan.

Combine and set aside:
3 cups of chopped Persimmons
2 t Baking soda
1/2 cup Amaretto Liquore (optional)

Beat until smooth
1/2 cup Earth Balance Butter
1 cup of brown sugar
2 eggs – Egg Replacers
2 t lemon juice
3 t vanilla
Mix into the persimmon mixture.

2 cups of Gluten Free Baking Flour (optional, can use regular flour)
1 t baking powder
1 t salt
1 t ground cloves
2 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
Stir into the persimmon mixture

(chopped walnuts or raisins are a nice optional addition, 1 1/2 cups total)

Pour into prepared bundt pan.
Bake at 350 for about 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Cool in pan for 15 minutes before turning onto a cooling rack

I thought the Bundt looked a little, well, boring.
So I made a glaze to drizzle on top

1 cup powdered sugar
Add Agave (or maple syrup) and Amaretto A LITTLE BIT at a time until you get the right consistency- not too runny or it’ll run right off your cake!

Things to make with persimmons?

We recently moved to a home that has a persimmon tree in the yard. From what I've read they won't be ready until October, so I've begun a slow search for things to do with them as persimmons are not something I've ever been familiar with. Most of the recipes I've found on line have been for baking (cakes, cookies) and puddings, but we're not big dessert eaters or makers. Are there savory things that persimmons are good for (I've seen a chutney-type recipe)?

Any and all suggestions appreciated. (BTW -We're not certain what variety they are, but the few on the tree late last fall were squat in shape. if that helps).

If they are squat with flat bottoms, as opposed to having bottoms that taper to a point, they are likely Fuyus, which can be eaten while firm or softer. That's good news for you, because they're good sliced in salads (especially with bitter greens and nuts), or chunked up and cooked into chutney, or in a winter fruit salad, etc. You'll get lots of ideas if you search CH and the web.

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You can use them to prepare a salsa to serve with pork (pork chops work nicely) by mixing chopped fuyus chopped peppers, grated ginger, cilantro and lime juice. Add whatever else you like in your salsa.
Or you could use them in preparing a stuffing for chicken or turkey.

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I find them quite tart, so I love the salsa suggestion.

Are you having hichaya persimmons? I've never found persimmons to be tart at all but those hichayas are mouth puckering when they're not ripe. Fuyus are very mellow to me.

Huh, it was called sharonfruit in the supermarket. Wait a minute, I got two different exotic fruits at the same time, maybe it was the other one.

Looks similar but smaller, and comes with papery leaves that cover the fruit?

Really didn't like Persimmons, it's a very bland, sweet flavour. I prefer a bit more tang.

I've never heard it called sharon fruit but looked it up and it is the same. If you had one w/ the pointy end, hichaya, it can either be incredibly sweet and amazing or mouthpuckeringly sour/tart. The latter is when it's not ripe enough and is inedible to me. If I had had that to start with, I'd never have become a persimmons fan! The fuyus have flat bottoms and are a mellow fruit.

Prosciutto, like melons, good both raw or cooked (nice drizzled with balsamic):

Make a persimmons and jalapeno jam--lots of uses for this:

I love them in a layered salad, greens w/ tomatoes and crab/shrimp--very pretty.

That persimmon and jalapeno jam sounds great! I'm definitely going to try it.

I know Midlife isn't a big dessert eater and probably does not grow the right persimmons for this, but I'm going to share my recipe for persimmon pudding anyway because I've been making it for years, it's delicious and very easy.

1 C. Sugar
1C Flour
1/2 C. Milk
1 C. Hachiya Persimmon pulp (this persimmon must be very soft)
1 T. Butter, melted
1 1/2 tsp. Baking POWDER
1 tsp. Baking SODA
1 C. Raisins
1 C. Chopped Walnuts or Pecans

Combine dry ingredients, raisins and nuts. Add milk, persimmon pulp and butter. Mix well. Pour into a buttered 2 quart pyrex casserole dish and cover with the pyrex lid. Bake at 350 for 1 hour. The pudding will go from being very light in color to very dark (almost black). You can eat it while it's slightly warm or you can cool it completely.

Not all sweeteners are created equal. Research by the American Dietetic Association has found that different sweeteners offer a varying amount of a potential antioxidant benefits. The results of this study showed brown rice syrup, refined sugar, corn syrup, and agave nectar have the least benefits with minimal antioxidant activity. Raw cane sugar was a little higher, brown sugar and maple syrup came next, and honey and turbinado after that.

Black strap molasses and date sugar are the top two sweeteners for antioxidant activity with 500-600 times more antioxidants than refined sugar. Of course, antioxidant activity is not the only factor to consider, but it indicates that some sweeteners have some nutritional benefits over others even if it only contributes a small amount with the limited recommended intake. Both black strap molasses and date sugar contribute others nutrients such as iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, manganese, B6, and copper.

Date sugar is very sweet and chefs recommend substituting only two -thirds cup of date sugar to replace 1 cup refined or brown sugar in a recipe. These Cocoa Truffles, made with dates and cocoa, are a delicious option for a healthier holiday treat. Each truffle contains six grams of sugar with one gram of fiber and a boost of antioxidants and nutrients from the dates and cocoa.

The newest sugar in the sweetener market is coconut sugar. Coconut sugar is a natural sweetener made from the sap of the coconut palm tree. It contains small amounts of antioxidants such as flavonoids, polyphenols, and anthocyanin, along with nutrients such as iron, zinc, calcium, and potassium. As with all sweeteners, it’s still a sugar and should therefore be limited. Coconut sugar is touted for its lower glycemic index however, more research needs to be done about its effect on blood sugars.

Sugar alcohols are defined as a kind of alcohol derived from sugar that occurs naturally and is used as a sweetener and thickener. They are easily detected by their suffix ending in “–ol” or “-er”. They include erythritol, sorbitol, xylitol. They have fewer calories mainly because they are not well absorbed and can even have a laxative effect. They are often in products labeled “sugar-free,” but don’t be fooled. Sugar alcohols still contain carbohydrates and still affect blood sugars even though the effect is not as significant as refined sugar or other sugars.

Stevia is a good option. It’s derived from the leaves of a South American shrub called Stevia rebaudiana, and has been used to sweeten foods for hundreds of years in Brazil, Paraguay, Japan, South Korea, and China. It is has no calories or effect on blood sugars and it’s 250-300 times sweeter than table sugar. There are two main sweetening chemicals in the stevia leaf: Rebaudioside A, also called Reb A or Rebiana and Stevioside. In 2008, the FDA concluded that Rebaudioside A, the highly purified form of the leaves of the stevia plant, could have GRAS status as a general-purpose sweetener. As with other sweeteners, it should be consumed in small and limited amounts.

Remember to indulge mindfully this holiday season. Savor each bite and allow yourself to enjoy the sweetness of the holidays without overindulging.