Do not fear the persimmon
October 19, 2014
We grow a lot of persimmons in the southeast, but some people are afraid of them. This came home to me earlier in the month when I picked 250 pounds of persimmons with a group of high school students to be served as snacks to local elementary school children. The kids loved them - despite the looks on the faces of many of their teachers and cafeteria staff.
The problem is that some varieties of persimmon are extremely astringent until they are very ripe. These varieties - Hachiya and Saijo are two common examples - must be soft enough to eat with a spoon in order to lose their mouth-puckering quality. On the other hand, the Fuyu, the most prevalent of the non-astringent type, is sweet and tasty while it is as hard as a store-bought tomato. The challenge is that they are difficult to tell apart. I used to think the non-astringent ones were shaped like tomatoes; not true.
So I ask before I buy and have always stuck with the delicious Fuyu variety, great for snacks out of hand, and cut up into green salads. But this year, I broke down and tried the astringent types. Do it! They are delicous in their own way. They are still available at the farmers markets and u-picks nearby. Purée from these very soft persimmons can be frozen and used all year in breads, pies, and yogurt parfaits. I made some delicious scones yesterday from mine.
2 cups all purpose flour
3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
5 tablespoons of butter
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup astringent-type persimmon pulp, squeezed from the peel
In one bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Grate the butter and cut into flour fixture with a pastry cutter or by rubbing between your fingers until the butter is well-distributed. In a second bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and persimmon pulp. You will notice solid pieces of persimmon mixed in with the liquid pulp; this is good. When well blended, add to flour mixture and stir quickly with a fork or wooden spoon until just mixed. Add a little bit of flour if necessary. Turn onto floured surface and gently shape into a 6-8" disc. Cut into eighths and place on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes.
This recipe was adapted from this one at lemonandanchovies.com. Theirs used the non-astringent variety, chopped. I also substituted buttermilk for the cream (always a good idea). The scones were tender and biscuit-like, and the slivers of persimmon added a wonderful taste, texture, and color.
Enjoy with tea and friends.
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