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It’s persimmon season!


 

 

Fall provides a bounty of beautiful fruits and vegetables, including orange-red persimmons. Persimmons begin appearing in markets in late September and are available through December. If you’ve never had a persimmon, now is the time to try it as a snack, side dish or flavorful dessert. Ripe persimmons are a small, smoothskinned fruit measuring from 1 to 3 inches.

Two main varieties are commercially available in the U.S.: 1) Hachiya persimmons are tart and chalky until they are extremely ripe. Hachiyas are used for making dishes like persimmon cookies or persimmon pudding cake and are eaten only when sweet and liquidy ripe. 2) Fuyu persimmons are shaped like tomatoes and are sliced and eaten like apples. Fuyus are sweeter than Hachiyas and can be eaten while still firm.

What Is a Persimmon?

A persimmon is a berry that comes from the edible fruit trees in the genus Diospyros, which has been fondly referred to as the “Divine Fruit.” Native to China, the persimmon has been cultivated for thousands of years. Japan has been cultivating persimmons for about 1,300 years. Japanese and Chinese cultivars were first introduced to the U.S. from 1870 to 1920.

According to folklore, if you split open a seed from a persimmon and the shape inside (called a cotyledon) looks like a fork, winter will be mild; spoon, there will be a lot of snow; knife, winter will be bitingly cold and “cut like a knife.”

But the persimmon is much more than an old way to predict the weather, it’s a soft, edible fruit (provided you bite into one that is lush and ripe; otherwise, you’re in for an unpleasant surprise) that can be eaten fresh, cooked or dried.

American persimmon trees produce a more astringent fruit with a bitter taste. As the fruit gets ripe, the tannins that cause the astringency coagulate, the flesh becomes soft and the fruit becomes sweet and juicy. Look for persimmons with taut, glossy skin, avoiding fruit with soft spots or bruises. If persimmons are still firm, store them at room temperature and allow them to ripen. To speed up the ripening process, you can put the fruit in a paper bag with a banana or apple. Store soft, ripe persimmons in the refrigerator until ready to eat.

Best of all, persimmons are good for you! They are rich in the powerful antioxidant vitamin C, which helps lower inflammation, a common cause of many diseases. They also are high in vitamin A and are a good source of fiber. Persimmons contain flavonoid antioxidants and tannins, which benefit heart health by reducing blood pressure, lowering inflammation and decreasing cholesterol levels.

Ripe persimmons can be sliced in half and the custardy pulp eaten with a spoon, or used as an ingredient in puddings or cookies. Persimmons also can be pureed and used as a topping for ice cream or cake, or as an addition to rice dishes and fruit salads.

This recipe for Persimmon Salad With Toasted Walnuts uses a sliced persimmon in the salad and another pureed into a vinaigrette as a dressing for the fruit and salad greens. It’s a beautiful dish and packed with nutrients and flavor!

Persimmon Salad With
Toasted Walnuts
2 Fuyu persimmons,
peeled and chopped (1/4
to 1/2-inch pieces), seeds
(if any) discarded
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
or lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly
ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1 Granny Smith, Gala or
Fuji apple, peeled, cored
and chopped (1/4 to 1/2
inch pieces)
1 Red Bartlett pear,
halved, cored and cut into
thin slices
6 figs, halved
7-10 leaves fresh mint or
basil, thinly sliced crosswise
(stack then, then roll them
up like a cigar and take
slices from the end)
2 large bunches frisee,
ends trimmed
1 small head radicchio,
torn into 2-inch pieces
1/2 cup walnut halves,
toasted

1. Puree one of the peeled and chopped persimmons in a blender or food processor with the vinegar or lemon juice, honey and the salt and pepper until smooth. With the motor running on low speed, slowly drizzle in the olive oil through the feeder tube until the mixture is well-combined and slightly thickened.

2. In a large bowl, gently toss together the persimmon slices, apples, pears, figs, mint or basil leaves, frisee, and radicchio. Add the vinaigrette and gently toss the mixture together. Place the salad on individual plates. Garnish with the walnut halves and serve immediately.

Angela Shelf Medearis is an award-winning children’s author, culinary historian and the author of seven cookbooks.

©2018 King Features Synd. and Angela Shelf Medearis

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