Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Consider the Persimmon: Fruit of the Gods
I am back from Sacramento, California, the capital of the golden state and haven to amateur fruit growers extraordinaire like my Po-po. I am not kidding here, kids. Nearly everyone in my grandparents neighborhood, a sweet little clustering of single-story, single-family homes that looks like a sunnier, better landscaped version of what you see in Leave it to Beaver, has at the very LEAST, their own orange tree out back. How amazing is that?
However, these oranges, no matter how lovingly home-grown and organic they may be, cannot compare to what Po-po grows. This woman is a fruit fanatic. She says the fruit is the best thing about living in California and can't really understand why everyone else, including her wayward granddaughter, does not understand this. She has a point though. How lovely would it be to have your own little back yard (and their yard is little), with one of each kind of fruit tree: Asian Pear, Orange, Plum, Golden Apple, Apricot, and Persimmon.
She also keeps her own little vegetable garden off to the side, but that is another story for another day.
So here I am, with Vronsky in tow, and my grandparents, who are almost 90 and probably in better shape than most 30 year olds, immediately exclaim and extol the virtues of Vronsky's great height compared (it's all relative...these are two 88 year old Chinese people we are talking about), and then Po-po grabs him by the hand and immediately says, "come with me."
She leads him out to the backyard and puts on her gardening boots, which are standard wellies that reach up over her knees since she is so tiny. She points to the persimmon tree and explains to him that, even with the aid of her ladder and her fruit-picker pole, she can't quite reach the persimmons up top and by golly, she is convinced that those are the best ones. Could he please utilize that great WASP height of his and get them down?
It was quite a scene. Vronsky picking fruit, my grandfather and I looking on bemusedly while Po-po hurried around the base of the tree picking up all the new fruit. She already had more oranges than she could handle (much of it was squeezed into juice by this point, since you can only eat so many oranges, no mater how good they are), but persimmons are special. After all, their entire genus name, Diospyros, actually means "Fruit of the Gods."
The persimmon is native to China, where it has been cultivated for centuries, but has since spread to Korea, Japan, and California (as of the 1800's), and thrive in Sacramento's mild winters and long summers. They are not appreciated very much outside of the Asian community, which is a real shame, since they are wildly nutritious, chock-a-block full with every vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant you could want. I swear the fact that my grandparents are still so healthy and spry is partly due to a lifetime of persimmons.
Persimmons are delicious sliced up like an apple and extremely sweet, which might be too much for some. Po-po dries out bags and bags worth of them in the backyard via just pure sunlight, which cuts the sweetness a bit and provides a lovely chewy texture that is perfect for snacking. I brought back to gallon-sized bags worth on the plan and have been snacking since.
Dried persimmons have such a great sentimental value for me that I have never thought to explore other uses for this yummy fruit, but its unique flavor and easy to "pulp" texture makes it a favorite for cookies, puddings, chutney and even a "bundt cake." Plus, as the images show, they are quite beautiful to look at!
But don't take my word for it. Sample some "fruit of the gods" for yourself!