By Chef Domenica Catelli
When I was growing up I had a very peculiar maternal grandmother. I spent most of my life thinking that I didn’t like persimmons because of her. When it was late fall/early winter, she would get persimmons from a neighboring tree. At this early stage the under-ripe fruits would taste like orange chalk. She would pile the remaining persimmons in a bowl in her eccentrically cat-filled home and there they would sit. They would still be around in that bowl ‘til the New Year and maybe even into Valentine’s Day. They continued to be offered over the months and they would transform from chalk into their own fermenting accidental version of persimmon sauerkraut. I think I have probably over shared a bit about my early persimmon experience, but just in case any of you had something vaguely similar I want to be able to assure you that a conversion is possible!
It was later in my twenties when I was far from home and working in a restaurant kitchen in Southern California that I experienced a persimmon properly (neither over- nor under-ripe). There are two main varieties that you will come across. The most common is the acorn-shaped Hachiya. These are the ones that must be eaten when they are soft (or you will get that mouth-full-of-chalk experience). These are fantastic when used in baking. You can add them to your favorite cake or muffin recipe after you puree the inner pulp in your blender. These fruits are a powerhouse of Riboflavin and offer a good dose of Vitamin C.
My favorite variety is the Fuyu. These are squat and shaped similar to a tomato. You eat these when they are firm and they are absolutely fantastic cut into thin slices and tossed with a salad. I am enjoying them currently on my special menu at Catelli’s restaurant, tossed with radicchio, arugula and sweet and spicy toasted walnuts. Add slices to a turkey sandwich for an unusual twist or chopped up fine on top of a piece of cheesecake for a burst of color and flavor.
Whether you were scarred by early bad persimmon experience or never knew quite what to do with them. They are easy to use and I highly encourage you to give them a try.
Until next time, stay fresh and delicious! Celia