Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Not All Persimmons are Created Equal
It is almost Thanksgiving and that means you are now seeing those strange, little pumpkin looking, orange fruits in the produce department of your grocery store or at the local open markets....yes, they are persimmons. For many years, I've stayed away from eating these fruits, thinking they were just ornamental, like those little pumpkins and gourds you use to decorate your Halloween, then Thanksgiving table.
But to my surprise, they are sweet, juicy, crunchy, jellylike, and delicious. So every November, I look forward to eating these seasonal jewels.
There are three varietals of persimmons available here in Hawaii and two of them are grown on Maui....Hachiya, Fuyu and Maru. A friend of mine just came back from a weekend trip to Maui, he brought back some Fuyu and Maru persimmons, and shared them with the crew at work. He informed me that these persimmons are grown on the slopes of Haleakala - upcountry Maui. I did not know that. I always thought they were all grown in California. The farm in upcountry Maui is called the Hashimoto Persimmon Farm. I lived in upcountry Maui for a year and worked back and forth from Oahu, for 11 years, and I did not hear of this farm...go figure.
So I am doing a taste test of the 3 varietals of persimmons. The first is the Hachiya. It looks like a heart shaped orange tomato. This persimmon cannot be eaten unless it is fully ripe. Ripe is when the fruit is a dark rust color and very, very soft to the touch - when it is almost ready to pop & the skin is very thin. Like a very ripe tomato. Warning - if you eat it before it's time, it is like biting into sticky cotton balls. So sticky that you have to brush your teeth, at least twice, to start getting the cotton feeling off your teeth and the sides of your mouth. Yucky. So ripen your Hachiya on the counter until soft (up to 2 weeks) and must be eaten within 2 days. Or you can freeze your unripe Hachiya, then thaw (this hastens ripening).
But when you eat it at it's perfect ripeness, it is like eating a sweet, satiny, jellylike strawberry papaya peach nectarine - but with a hint of cinnamon. Hachiya's are usually from California and not that readily available in our Hawaii markets.
The next tasting is the Maru persimmon. The Maru looks just like the Fuyu, a plump orange tomato, but lighter in color and not as pretty (it's the one on the right). You can eat the Maru crunchy and not fully ripe, not like the Hachiya. But you can wait until it is fully ripe. When you eat it not fully ripe, it is like eating a perfect peach and nectarine, but with a smooth apple texture.
And now the Fuyu persimmon. This is the pretty sister of the Maru, in appearance, not as plump, the skin is clear and deeper in orange. But comparison in taste, I think the Maru has a sweeter taste and creamier texture. The Fuyu might be prettier to look at, but the Maru has the better taste. It's the pretty/plain girl philosophy.
So run to your closest market now and get your seasonal jewels, before it is gone, like Fall.