Persimmons: Astringent, Sweet, Dried and Fresh
The History of the Persimmon
Much like other fruits, the persimmon has undergone many changes and developments through it's long history of cultivation.
In their natural state, the persimmon was a small, astringent fruit that grew abundantly on a bushy tree. Over time, through careful cultivation techniques developed over the generations, different varieties of persimmon have been developed in areas all over east Asia, and many have now become famous. The age of many modern varieties is well over 400 years, and a number of different categories have developed.
The Varieites of Persimmon
There are many hundreds of varieties of persimmons, and are a particularly difficult fruit to process. In their most natural form, persimmons are small, only a few centimeters in length, and quite astringent. Over the generations, people have been able to develop sweet varieties of persimmon, larger fruit, and many different flavor profiles, but as the classical varieties have been loved by people just as the new ones were developed, many different kinds are currently in cultivation.
In the market, there are currently large sweet persimmons for eating fresh, large astringent persimmons for eating dried or processed, and small persimmons that are either sweet or astringent, but made to be eaten after drying.
Have you ever had persimmons?
How are Persimmons Dried?
Dry persimmons are prepared either mechanically or by hand, with a higher price and quality being associated with a hand-crafted persimmon.
The first step is to pick the persimmon, which is conducted either by hand or by automatic harvester. Automatic harvesters are more likely to damage the fruit, so usually they are harvested by hand with pruning shears, one piece at a time.
Next, the fruits are transported in crates to a processing area, and they are peeled, either by automatic methods that removes the calyx and rounds the fruit, or by hand, in order to preserve the natural angles of the persimmon.
Finally, they are hung to dry, either in a pressurized and heated indoor container, or an outdoor area with exposure to dry wind and sunlight. Either method produces dried persimmons less than half the weight of a fresh persimmon, but even an astringent variety will form a layer of dried sugars on the surface of the fruit.
Why are Persimmons Dried?
While drying a persimmon changes the texture and offers a great way to enjoy any kind of persimmon, the technique of drying persimmons developed as a way of converting the poorly palatable astringent varieties of antiquity into a sweeter, more delectable fruit that was pleasant to eat.
Drying persimmons locks the tannins inside of the cells of the fruit, and at the same time liberates the sugars to be released and drawn to the surface of the fruit. A dried persimmon offers a great flavor profile, and is a popular and delicious treat. In many shops in jJpan, a single dried persimmon of quality can go for well over 400 yen, which is about $3.37 dollars at 2015 rates.
Preparing a Persimmon
While many varieties of persimmon are intended to be eaten fresh, there are a few things that should be done in order to prepare them for consumption.
All persimmons should be peeled before eating, regardless of the variety. The leafy structure at the branch end of the fruit, called the calyx, should be cut away, and the remainder may be split apart easily with the hands and eaten, whether dried or fresh.
Persimmons are used in many different ways depending on their variety and whether or not they have been processed into a paste. Fresh persimmons are usually eaten alone or in conjunction with a meal, but processed persimmons are used for many different things, including toppings for pastries, fillings for buns, and as a flavoring for both desserts and rice dishes.