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Archive for November 19th, 2011
19 Nov

The Persimmon Incident

We were at the grocery store the other day and happened upon a big display of persimmons, which we assumed were in season. These were small fruits that were orange-yellow in color and resembled small tomatoes. We had never had one before and the signs were saying things like “sweet and tangy,” which is right up my alley. So curiosity got the better of us and we got one each of the two kinds of persimmons they had. We didn’t know if they were fully ripe, as a lot of supermarket fruit is typically not ripe, so we put them on the counter when we got home. A couple of days went by and I grabbed the more oblong one (known as a hachiya) and decided to give it a try. What could go wrong? It’s a fruit, right?

The evil persimmon

I took a big bite out of a slice and started to chew. Within seconds, my mouth felt like a wool sweater just exploded. I could not taste a thing, it felt like my whole mouth was swelled up with fur, and it felt like no matter where I put my tongue, it got stuck. A quick drink of water relieved the fuzzy feeling in my mouth and I stood kind of dumbfounded. Who on earth would eat one of these things?  So obviously now that I had discovered this I had to let Rob try it without telling him what happened. Comical results would have to ensue, yes?  Yes.

I took a slice and handed it to Rob. He said, “oh, you slice it up – is it good?”  I didn’t get a chance to even answer or make up anything before he bit into it.  All of a sudden he gets a very weird look on his face and says “what is that!!”  I just look at him as if to say “what do you mean?” Then he gets a little nervous and says, “oh my god, I think I’m allergic to this!  My mouth is all full and blowing up!”  Of course, that made my start laughing, which was a bummer because I really wanted to explore this allergy reaction thing. Then I had to tell him the same thing happened to me. We were both clueless as to what was the deal with this persimmon.

Turns out (after looking it up on the internet – which is what we should have done first) that an unripe persimmon, particularly the kind I sliced, is incredibly high in tannins and if eaten in that state completely dries out your mouth – hence the feeling that you just ate a cat’s coat that was covered in dog fur. The time to eat a persimmon is after is had become very, very soft inside – almost gelatinous. Then you cut the top off and scoop out the insides. When it is fully ripe like this, the tannins are gone.

Of course, the other variety of persimmon we got (it is called “fuyu” and frankly I’d leave off the “yu” because, well, FU persimmons!) are considered non-astringent, so they have minimal tannins and those go away much quicker. That would have been the one to start with, but alas I picked the wrong one. The fuyu is still on the counter and I’m waiting for it to soften so we can try that one…maybe. The other one has found a home in the compost bin and I hope it is happy there drying up all the other scraps that come into contact with it.

Needless to say, we won’t be venturing near the persimmons again. I’m sure if they were served correctly or in something they might be delicious. But for us it is just created a moment in time we like to call “the persimmon incident.”

P.S.: Two days after trying this bizarre fruit, my new issue of Cook’s Country arrived and on a page they describe winter fruits. Guess what was featured with a notation about what happens when you eat an unripe one?  Geez – two days, too late.

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