There's got to be a way to eat them that I just haven't figured out. After all, their genus name "Diospyros" means "Divine Fruit". I've seen videos on YouTube of people talking about how wonderful they are, so I've got to be missing something. I don't have an astringent persimmon tree, but I did know of a native American persimmon tree that grows behind our church. I took a little field trip over there on the way home from work last week, picked around one gallon of fruit at various stages of ripeness, and brought them home. I decided to try three different methods to try and ripen the fruit:
- Bletting - Just leave them out until they get soft and mushy;
- Ripen fruit in a paper bag with a banana; and
- The Water Bath Method.
The first two methods are pretty self explanatory, but here's how the water bath method works: First you put some persimmons that are fully colored into a container and cover them with water. Drain and replace the water every three days, and after that time the astringent tannins will have been removed from the fruit. I learned about this method from Gulf Coast Fruit Study Group coordinator Yvonne Gibbs, and she says it is very important to pick fruit that are uniformly colored and undamaged.
So after three days, I decided to gather my courage and try some fruit. First I tried some of the fruit that was just left out on the counter. Only the fruits that had softened to the point where the calyx (leaves on top) easily pulled away from the fruit were even close to edible. If the calyx held tightly at all, then the fruit was still very astringent and made my mouth pucker. Luckily discovered orange juice is very good at getting that stuff out of your mouth. The results were the same with the persimmons ripening in the paper bag with the banana, although they seemed to be farther along in the ripening process than the fruits that were just left out. In both cases, the ripe fruit was very sweet, with a soft mushy texture that reminded me of pumpkin pie filling, and a flavor that is very difficult to describe. The only thing I can think to compare it to is baked apples, although that's not really right either.
To my astonishment, the fruits ripened in the water bath were not astringent! The calyxes of these fruit pulled away with just a little bit of resistance, and the flesh was soft, but not as mushy as the bletted fruits. They were not quite as sweet or flavorful as the bletted fruits either, but I definitely liked the texture much more. Even though I thought the fruit was palatable, I'm still not sold on persimmons. However, now that I know how to ripen them so I won't make myself sick, I'm ready to move on from the wild persimmons and move on to some selected varieties. I'm hopeful I'll be able to find some other varieties to sample before persimmon season is over, and finally experience "divine fruit".
On a related note, last week Yvonne Gibbs and I recorded a podcast about persimmons. We had a lot of fun making it, and hope to record several more on a variety of topics. I don't know how often I'll be able to upload new podcasts, but initially I'm going to try to put one up every two weeks or so. I hope you enjoy my first attempt. If you've got a fruit question you'd like us to answer during a show, send me an email.