Friday, October 24, 2014

Fruit Hunter - Persimmons


I chose persimmons for this post.  It's a fruit I've seen many times but have never tried it.  The reason I chose it is because they are in season right now and I thought I'd have no problem finding them and that they would be plentiful.  After researching them, I found that there are two main varieties available here, the most common being the Hachiya and the Fuyu.  During my treck out to find the Hachiya I literally did become a fruit hunter!
Persimmons are the fruit of a species of trees in the genus Diospyros which is in the family Ebenaceae.  Hachiya's and Fuyu's  are native to China.  The fruit is considered a true berry because of it's pulp and thick skin. In 1870 the persimmon tree was brought to California and by 1930 California had over 200,000 trees.  They are available in season in October.  In general there are 2 types of fruit, astringent and non-astringent.  The Hachiya fruit, which is more acorn or heart shaped has a high tannin content which means unripe Hachiya is bitter and astringent.  In doing research on this variety I did find  that people commented that if you ever ate a unripe Hachiya persimmon it is so mouth puckeringly sour that you would never eat a persimmon again.  Ever. They need to ripen to an almost water ballon ripeness to be sweet and edible. The Fuyu is a squat like a tomato and is non-astringent which means it doesn't have to ripen  to the extremety of the Hachiya to be eaten.  You can eat it like you would an apple.

I chose to 'hunt down' the Hachiya persimmon.  They are the most common persimmon that are used for baking. The first place I tried was St. Lawrence Market and I looked in about five different markets with no luck finding the Hachiya, though Fuyu's were everywhere.  So that brought me to searching the markets in Chinatown (in the pouring rain with a broken umbrella!).  Strolling up Spadina Avenue there were about four vendors selling Fuyu's, no luck with what I wanted.  After speaking to a few of the market owners I ended up in an arguement at two different places.  They were trying to tell me that the Fuyu was the only type of persimmon and there were no other varieties.  (Obviously a sales tactic!).  Instead of trying Kensington Market I decided to check out a fave place of mine, The Lucky Moose.



Success!  Selecting persimmons is difficult since Hychiyas are best when they are water ballon soft.  I knew that I had to select fruit that was glossy and heavy for it's size.  The Hychiya's here were on the pricey side at $1.99 each while the markets on Spadina selling the Fuyu's were inexpensive at 6 for $5.00.


Right out of the bag these babies were hard as rocks.  Panic sets in when I read that they can take upwards of a week to ripen to be useable in a recipe!  I hit up some more sites to find the quickest way to get these ripe (this blog post was due in a week!).  I put the persimmons in a tupperware contatiner, sealed, with an apple cut in half to give off ethylene gas to speed up the process.  I also put a few drops of brandy on the leaves of each persimmon.  It worked like a charm and they were water ballon ripe in about 4 days.


I did not try the fruit in it's unripe state due to the fact I read they were beyond bitter.  I cut them in half and it basically became a pile of mushy liquidy pulp.  I peeled them by hand which made a mess, in hindsight I would have just scooped out the flesh with a spoon.  They smelled like a cross between a citrus fruit and pumpkin.  They flesh was very fibrous.  It tasted quite sweet and slightly reminded me of a mango yet a more stringy mouth feel.  I pureed them with an immersion blender.  I had a recipe picked out to incorporate them, James Beard's Persimmon Bread from Beard on Beard.  I chose a sweet recipe but I'm sure next time I would try to incorporate the persimmons into a savoury dish.


The full recipe for the bread above can be found here on the David Lebovitz site.  The bread was quite good and the crumb was dense but had enough moisture from the butter used in it.  This experience trying yet another new food I've never tried did have an impact.  I went back to the Lucky Moose the next day and bought duck wings and beef tongue (instead of my usual chicken pieces and ground beef, or 'safe' products).  Planning on making asian fried duck wings and maybe some kind of a beef tongue taco.  I suppose I am less hestitant to buy and make food using different new ingredients.  I feel I am no longer anchored to buying the same old stuff.  Time to experiment!

Cheers,

Tammy

2 comments:

  1. The bread looks delicious Tammy!! I kinda wish we had class so I could maybe taste some! haha

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  2. Thanks Tara, it was really interesting and full of butter, what more could you ask for?!

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