Oct 25, 2017
By Kelly Smith
As we head towards Thanksgiving, I believe most in Sonoma County agree that we have lots to be thankful this year. We are all beaming with love for our first responders and firefighters and everyone who joined in to ease a very difficult situation when the fires erupted on October 9th. Going to the farmers’ market and meeting with your community will be more enjoyable now than ever. Supporting the small farmers and the micro businesses at the farmers market is a wonderful way to help rebuild Sonoma County. We have all suffered a loss and long for the normal.
I chose persimmons this month. As a younger person we often gave fruit to our loved ones during the holidays. Persimmons were always appreciated but a mystery to me. While doing research I was excited to learn more about a persimmon native to America. I thought I would share this information with you.
The genus name for persimmon literally means “Fruit of the Gods.” Two species of persimmon (Diospyros) have significance as fruit crops: The kaki, or Asian persimmon, was the most widely grown fruit in East Asia until the 20th century. The American persimmon was relished by Native Americans, but has never been embraced as a commercial fruit crop because many cultivars are too soft for commercial shipping. These species are similar in many ways, but the American persimmon is more cold-hardy, with some cultivars hardy to Zone 4 (though ripening can be a problem). It is also softer and dryer than the kaki, but has a richer flavor. American persimmon is also higher in nutrients like vitamin C and calcium.
The following describes the American (Virginiana) variety, unless specified otherwise. Persimmon trees are usually dioecious (either male or female), but some have complete flowers that make them self-fruitful. They are somewhat unique in that sexual expression can vary from year to year. Trees remain dormant longer than most fruit trees, and blossoming is relatively late in the season and rarely damaged by late-spring frosts.
American persimmon are high in soluble tannins until they are thoroughly ripe. Unripe fruit is extremely astringent, but throughly ripened fruit is sweet and delicious (though some may not like the soft, pudding-like texture). Persimmons can be eaten fresh, dried or cooked into pies, cookies and cakes. Native Americans used them in gruel, cornbread and pudding.
As the name suggests, American persimmon is a native fruit. Its native range is New England to Florida and west to Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Kansas. Kaki has had centuries of improvement through breeding, but American persimmon has had very little breeding attention. Most of the named cultivars are chance seedlings. There is much room for cultivar improvement through selective breeding.
Mostly what we see at the farmers’ markets are Japanese varieties including: Fuyu and Hachiya. Fuyu is sweet less astringent and can eaten raw where the Hachiya you will want to use in cooking due to it’s stringent flavor.
• 8 cups of sour dough bread, cubed (1/2 loaf)
• Olive oil
• 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
• 2 shallots, minced
• 4-5 celery stalks, trimmed and thinly sliced
• 2 medium leeks, cleaned and thinly sliced
• 2 garlic cloves, minced
• 6 fresh sage leaves, chopped
• 3/4 teaspoon dried or fresh thyme
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
• 1 cup low-sodium vegetable or chicken stock
• 3/4 tablespoon salt
• 1 large egg, lightly beaten
• 3 (firm) fuyu persimmons, cubed
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Add sliced squash to a to bowl and toss with oil and sea salt. Then arrange in a single layer on baking sheet.
3. Bake for 20-25 minutes, flipping once at the halfway point to ensure even baking. You’ll know it’s done when fork tender, golden brown, and slightly caramelized.
4. While squash is baking, prepare dressing by adding tahini, lemon juice, and maple syrup to a small mixing bowl. Whisk to combine, then add hot water 1 Tbsp at a time and whisk until pourable. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
5. To serve, arrange baked squash on a serving dish and top with dressing, pomegranates, walnuts, and parsley. Serve warm.
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