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The Farmer and the Foodie: Persimmons: a bright spot during the fall

Sept./Oct. 2012 California Bountiful magazine



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The farmer: Glen Ikeda grows fruit on 40 acres in Auburn with his brother, Steve. They also manage their family's markets in Auburn and Davis (www.ikedas.com). The foodie: For Gwen Schoen, food is about anticipating and celebrating the seasons. Questions or comments? Write to info@californiabountiful.com.

Just when we must say good-bye to the luscious fruits and vegetables of summer, the persimmon crop brightens up produce stands and the culinary scene.

Farmer: Persimmon season is short. Depending on the weather, it usually begins in late September and lasts through October, sometimes into December. The trees do best where it isn't too hot or too cold, so most of the California crop is grown in the northern and central parts of the state.

Foodie: I'm aware of two varieties of persimmons, and I can say that you never want to mix them up. A bite out of the wrong one, and you won't soon forget that experience.

Farmer: Absolutely true. The astringent varieties turn soft and jelly-like on the inside when ripe, but they're used for cooking, not snacking. The most common type is the heart-shaped Hachiya ("hi-CHEE-ah"). The skin of these has a lot of tannin, which gives it a bitter flavor even when the fruit is ripe.

Non-astringent persimmons, such as the Fuyu ("FOO-yoo") and Gosho ("GO-show"), are crunchy and eaten like an apple. There is also a Maru variety, which is nicknamed the chocolate persimmon because of the color of its pulp.

Foodie: I know the Hachiya is soft when ripe. How can you tell if a Fuyu is ripe?

Farmer: A Fuyu or other non-astringent persimmon should be orange, not green or even have green spots on the shoulders. Even if they have yellow patches, they are not quite ripe. With the astringent types—the ones that turn soft—it takes a couple of weeks for them to develop their full, sweet potential, so plan to buy them a couple of weeks before you want to use them. Store either type at room temperature until ripe. Once ripe, you can store in the refrigerator for use within a few days.

Foodie: Most fruit is damaged when frozen, but Hachiya persimmons turn mellow and creamy, almost like a sorbet. When I'm ready to cook them, I soak them in tepid water until thawed. Then they are perfect for using in recipes such as cookies and puddings.

There's a lot to love about raisins

As you toss a handful of raisins into your persimmon cookies, here are a few points to ponder:

  • California farmers supply about half of the world's raisins. Most are grown in the San Joaquin Valley.
  • Raisins are the most popular dried fruit in the U.S., accounting for about two-thirds of total dried fruit consumption.
  • Raisins provide an excellent source of iron and beneficial phytochemicals and antioxidants.
  • The most common grape varieties grown for raisins are Thompson seedless, zante and muscat.
  • Dark raisins are those that are sun-dried for several weeks, either on the vine or on paper-lined racks in the vineyard. Golden raisins are mechanically dried.
  • Raisins can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for several months. For longer storage, they should be refrigerated or frozen.
  • Straight from the box is only one way to enjoy raisins. Check the California Raisin Marketing Board website (www.calraisins.org) for recipes ranging from Thai lettuce wraps to sweet and spicy chili.

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