Sure, spring brings strawberries and summer brings peaches, but autumn with its bounty of turnips, rutabagas and curly kale is my favorite season. It’s the season of under-loved and under-appreciated fruits and vegetables – the kind that rarely make it to the kitchen table for want of culinary know-how or for simple lack of desire.
Persimmon is, indeed, one of these fruits. Somewhat obscure, somewhat exotic and decidedly under-loved – that is unless you’re blessed enough to live on the west coast where a bounty of persimmons are available locally from sustainable farms. These persimmons arrived alongside a box of mandarinsfrom Chaffin Family Orchards with which I made mandarin cranberry relish.
A persimmon a cute fruit – largely reminiscent of a bright orange tomato. The quartet of grey-green, rounded leaves at its stem look like something a pixie might wear for a hat. A persimmon’s flavor is unmatched and a challenge to describe. Imagine hints of pumpkin combined with pear, apricot and even subtle notes of avocado. It’s a flavor that combines well with orange and cream and spice.
There are primarily two sorts of persimmon: the astringent and the non-astringent, and of these two sorts there are two varieties with which most of us are familiar: the hachiya and the fuyu. Hachiyas are elongated, acorn-shaped persimmons with a deep red-orange color while fuyu persimmons are squat and lighter in color than their cousins.
Hachiyas, you see, are of the astringent sort – the kind that ought not be eaten until fully ripe lest the fruit’s bitter tannins suck the all moisture from your mouth, leaving it as dry as desert on a July afternoon. What this meant, for me, is that I really wanted to try an unripe hachiya. Just to see, you know? So I grabbed the a hachiya from the basket and sliced into it and swallowed. It’s true, I tell you. It’s true. An unripe hachiya is, indeed, astringent. It’s like drinking overbrewed tea, only 100 times as strong. A ripe hachiya, by contrast, is sweet, pudding-like and lush.
A ripe hachiya persimmon is soft – really soft – with the heft and softness of a water balloon. When ripe, they’re so soft that you may very well question whether to keep it or toss it, thinking, “She said it was supposed to be soft, but this soft, really?” That’s the kind of softness we’re after. From here, cut off the top and scoop out its pulp. This natural persimmon purÃ©e is fantastic for baking, but I chose to mix it with mandarin and vanilla for persimmon ice cream.
The ice cream is only mildly sweet and, thanks to the texture and softness of the persimmon pulp, is also fluffy and light in flavor. It is also a raw food as none of its ingredients are cooked or heated. Persimmons are high in vitamin C, beta carotene, manganese and lycopene while cream from grass-fed cows is rich in conjugated linoleic acid and other nutrients. The mandarins in this ice cream complement the persimmons well, providing just the perfect touch of acidity and vibrant aroma of citrus.
- pulp of 3 Ripe Hachiya Persimmons
- 1 small Fresh Mandarin Orange
- ¼ cup Raw Honey, (more or less to taste)
- 1 Vanilla Bean
- 2 cups Fresh Cream
- 1 cups Fresh Whole Milk
- 4 Egg Yolks from Pastured Hens
- Zest and juice the mandarin, reserving all but 2 tablespoons of juice for another recipe.
- Blend cream, milk, hachiya pulp, mandarin zest, 2 tablespoons of mandarin juice.
- Scrape the contents of vanilla bean into the mixture.
- Combine all ingredients in your food processor, blender or mixer and process until well-blended and smooth.
- Pour into your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s suggestion.