A blog of hopeful, inspired living: cooking & baking & growing & harvesting & preserving & gleaning & eating & sharing food... while bringing positive change to my kitchen and our food system.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Persimmon Tree

Down the street from one of the schools where I work there is a lot for sale. It is about a half acre, locked down with several fences -- a broken wooden one and a 8-foot chain link one. Sometimes there is a big dog inside the fence, too. There is nothing on the lot except a persimmon tree. A beautiful, old, leaning Hachiya persimmon tree. Since the first frost, the persimmon tree is bare of leaves which makes the hundreds of bright orange, heart-shaped fruits stand out against the sky and the otherwise stark lot. I drive by this tree nearly every day, wondering how I might get in and harvest the tree. (What on earth I would do if I had all that fruit?) Well, luckily I work with some great people, with great ideas. A quick call to the phone number posted on the For Sale sign and several of us persimmon-tree gawkers found ourselves on the other side of the fences. An hour later we were several hundred of pounds of persimmons heavier. We donated several bags, but were still left with much persimmon poundage. Time to pull out the dehydrator, freezer bags and muffin tins!

Lots to do with Hachiya Persimmons

Fuyu and Hachiya Persimmons originated in Asia -- probably China (although they are the national fruit of Japan). Hachiya are a sweet pudding treat when they are fully ripe. Unlike the Fuyu persimmon, they are terribly astringent and inedible when hard. I love Fuyus cut up in a salad, and see these varieties much more often than Hachiya
whole fruits, muffins and dehydrated slices

in stores and markets. So what to do with the Hachiya?

Use them ripe!
When fully soft, rest them on their stem, split the other end with a spoon and dig in. It's like pudding. Delicious pudding, full of potassium and vitamins A & C.

Additionally, the ripe pulp can be used in baking (cakes, muffins, cookies, pancakes -- easily made vegan and low in oil/fats).  Use it fresh or frozen for later (see more about freezing below).

Here's a recipe similar to the one that my persimmon-harvesting buddy, Mary-Eileen used when she made delicious muffins:

Persimmon Muffins:
1 cup Flour                              
3/4 cup Sugar
1 teaspoon Baking soda
1 teaspoon Baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg
1/2 cup Raisins
1 cup chopped Pecans
1 Egg, whisked
1 cup ripe Hachiya persimmon pulp
2 tablespoons Oil
1/4 teaspoon Lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin. Whisk together all the dry ingredients (except the nuts and raisins). Chop up persimmon pulp (with a knife or blender), mix well with the egg, oil and lemon zest. Add dry ingredients to persimmon mixture, mixing just until everything is moist. Stir in raisins and pecans. Pour into muffin tins, filling each nearly to the top. Bake for 25- 30 minutes. Makes 12 muffins.

Freezing Hachiyas -- Brrr!
Ripening a hard hachiya can take a couple days or even a couple weeks.  You can put under-ripe hachiyas in the freezer for at least 24 hours to soften them up for baking or other treats.  (Note: They don't tend to be as sweet as naturally ripened fruits).
To freeze: Place fruits stem-side down on a baking sheet.  Freeze 24 hours, put frozen fruit in freezer containers if you don't plan to use right away.

Persimmon sorbet -- the easy way: Place a frozen persimmon in the fridge for an hour.  Eat plain with a spoon when slightly de-thawed.

Persimmon ice cream:
Cut up a whole frozen fruit and plop in the blender with 3 tablespoons cream, 1 Tablespoon sugar and a drop of vanilla.

They also go well in a wide range of breakfast smoothies.

Dehydrate them! 
Dehydrating is a great way to preserve Hachiyas... and to take care of all those pounds of fruit!  They are dehydrated when they are hard, but lose all astringency and their sugars condense nicely. A sweet, natural candy.
I've read directions that call for peeling and others that don't bother. I don't bother.
Cut firm Hachiyas into rounds that are about 1/4 inch thick (too thin or too soft and they are difficult to get off the dehydrator trays).
Discard the ends (the ends are a big hit with our chickens).
Place on dehydrator racks and turn on high for 15 - 20 hours. Put dehydrated persimmons in a sealed container. Sometimes their sugars will form white crystals on the surface of the dried fruit.

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