persimmons: fall fruit

persimmon


An appropriately colored fruit for the season. It’s that time of year again, when the persimmon harvest results in grocery bags full of these gorgeous fruits passed from my great aunt’s tree to my grandma’s home, then to my own kitchen.

I thought there were just two types of persimmons, the type my great aunt grows (shown in the photo above, and also known as ‘Fuyu’) and the kind that looks a like an overly large and edgy Roma tomato (also known as ‘Hachiya’). A quick google search proved me wrong! Turns out with all the cultivation there are thousands of varieties. Impressive, but less surprising seeing as they’ve been growing them for thousands of years in China, then Japan, and elsewhere in the world.

Growing up I knew how much my grandmother loved these fruits, so I pretended I never wanted to eat one so she could enjoy them all to herself. My curiosity only grew of course, with the high praise of my grandmother, and her frequent comparison that ripe persimmons are like honey/sugar. It’s true though, it really is like eating sugar!

Persimmons have always held such a sophistication in my mind. The colors ranging from a strange yellow-orange to a deep, almost red, color. Their texture ranges too, from firm and sliceable, to jelly-like, only scoopable with a spoon or slurped lips. They’re also not really anything I’d seen outside my grandmother’s home for quite a while.

The Hachiya variety is best eaten when it’s so absurdly ripe it’s almost like juice inside the protective fruit peel. Messy? Why yes. But every sticky drop is a treat. Even so, I think I prefer the flatter Fuyu, if only for the more varied possibilities it presents with the range in textures and levels of sweetness observed by waiting (or not waiting!) to eat them.

Once I tried to make a persimmon pie for my grandma. She was not impressed. Neither was I, to be quite honest. Since then I haven’t really tried to cook with persimmons. Not because I was afraid of it tasting bad (what can taste bad with a persimmon in it???), more so because it seems like a shame to waste the delicious and delicate flavor of the fresh fruit.

It’s not just a beautiful looking and tasting fruit. It’s got loads of health benefits too! My grandmother is nearing 90 years old and I can’t remember a single season she hasn’t gotten at least one batch from the harvests of her sister, cousin, and/or neighbor. Here are just a few reasons why you should try a persimmon now:

  • High Vitamin A and C content, as indicated by the beautiful orange coloring
    • Now you don’t have to stick to carrots to keep that vision 20/20
    • Antioxidants can help you fight free-radicals. Younger-looking skin and cancer-free cells, one persimmon at a time.
    • Vitamin C is a cold-buster. Fight the flu with fruit this season!
  • It’s a fiber-rich food
    • Fiber is good for digestion. Regulate and keep that colon clean. Know what I’m saying?
    • Keep hunger at bay
  • Copper – metal in fruit?
    • Yes. Apparently, copper is essential in forming red blood cells.
  • It’s delicious, duh.

wax apple

wax appleThe Asian network of grandmothers, old friends, and neighbors’ fruitful backyards is strong. A ripe tree bearing many fruit can becomes gifts to old friends, neighbors, and/or relatives who will likely parse it out to their own friends, neighbors, and/or relatives; a great way to diversify your harvest and taste some of the freshest and sweetest organic produce!

A friend of my grandma’s visited her a few days ago and brought her six wax apples. They came from the backyard of another friend, who grew a tree from a seed brought over from Taiwan. My grandma had never encountered this exotic treat before. Neither had I, and lucky for me she gave me a few to enjoy when I went over yesterday.

The wax apple has many fun and descriptive names (some of which include: jambu apple, love apple, water apple, and bellfruit). It’s related to the guava, funky family members that bear resemblance through their bellybutton-ish undersides, remnants of where the tree’s flower once was. It surely doesn’t share the texture of a guava – while a guava is gooey and can have many, many seeds, the wax apples I tried were quite firm and had no seeds (or just one, tiny tiny seed in one instance).

The wax apple’s high water content give it a crisp and refreshing bite. Sweet and juicy, its texture is a bit like a cross between watermelon and an apple. No need to peel it either – a good thing since it seems pretty delicate.

I read online that they doesn’t keep all too well, staying freshest for only about 3 or 4 days (and not in the fridge, where it breaks down much more quickly). My grandma put one in the fridge and the fruit started to split in a few tiny areas but on the very very bright upside the juices were cooler and all the more refreshing when we cut it to share.

Word on the web is that there are places in LA to get these, including the Pasadena farmer’s market. If there’s a time to check it out, it would be while it’s in season now!