Sunday, November 11, 2007
Persimmons. They're heeeeere.
The persimmon is hard to put your finger on. It's one of those fruits that seems exotic and ordinary at the same time. It's popular in both Asia and Europe. I've seen them eaten both raw and cooked, dried and fresh.
I've noticed them at markets over the years, but I wasn't quite sure what to do with them. On one occasion I went as far as buying one and trying to eat it, but I lived to regret it. Instead of a sweet and tasty fruit, I was greeted with a sharp, almost toxic taste and the sensation that my tongue was covered in hair. That was enough to keep me away for years. But now that it's persimmon season again, I have done a little research, faced my fears and taken the leap. As I write this, I am face to face with a plate of these rather pretty but potentially evil fruits.
One thing that has long confused me is that the persimmon seems to be two fruits, not one. There is the acorn-shaped oblong version and the squat tomato-like version. Turns out there are indeed two distinct types. And to complicate things further, they not only look different, but taste quite different and need to be approached differently.
The oblong fruit are known as the astringent variety, which is obviously the kind I had tried that fateful day. They must be eaten only at the peak of ripeness, when they are nice and soft, or else the high levels of tannins in the flesh will make you sorry and possibly scar you emotionally. To quote John Lennon, "Children, don't do what I have done. I couldn't walk and I tried to run."
The rounder, flatter persimmons are the non-astringent variety and are much lower in tannins. They can be eaten when fully soft and squishy, or when still slightly crispy. I have just tried one, slicing it in half and cutting the flesh away from the rather tough skin. It's crisp but still juicy, fairly sweet and pleasant tasting.
I haven't yet tried one of the astringent fruits. They're probably ripe enough, but one can't be too careful. Fool me once... well, you know the rest.