Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Asian Persimmons

I don't really have a favorite food of all time, one that I would request on death row at my last meal. I like seasonal, local food, from my own terroir if possible, and that varies depending on the time of year. In summer, it's my own favorite cherry tomatoes; in winter, it's my own favorite kale.

Right now I'm in Houston, which is not my own terroir, but I still buy locally-grown food at the farmer's market.  Right now what I really, really like is persimmons. I like them everywhere, even when I'm in Tennessee, but in Tennessee I eat wild persimmons that I find on the ground, usually on the road, and sort of warmed by the road and maybe smushed by a car. Sometimes they have a little grit from the road in them. They have a lot of seeds, and I save the seeds and scatter them around my farm, or plant them in a row in the garden hoping to grow a hardy persimmon seedling.

In Houston you can buy locally-grown Asian persimmons. These are quite a bit bigger than the wild native persimmons, and they have only one or two seeds per fruit. Some fruits have no seeds at all! They are a beautiful orange color before they are ripe, and they are rather hard at first, but then they soften and turn brownish, and this is when you eat them. The variety that I bought at the farmer's market did not have much of the astringency of the wild American persimmon, but apparently some of the Asian types are more astringent than others.

The other day on one of my walks around the neighborhood, I saw a neighbor's tree just loaded with these Asian persimmons. None of them were on the ground. I think you pick them here while they are still unripe, and then you ripen, or "blett" them, in the house. That also prevents possums from dining on them before you can get them.

Urban Harvest in Houston sells Asian persimmon trees at their annual fruit tree sale in late January, and maybe I will get one this year. They certainly seem to thrive here. However, I think it would likely be too cold for them on Brangus Lane: they can't take temperatures below zero. Maybe in the near future, though, as the climate warms, we will be able to grow Asian persimmons in the Upper Cumberland.

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