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Persimmon: Ripe
for the Job An interview conducted by Jane Staley Boaz
gourmet articlesarchivepersimmon
December 2008
Determined to find an uncommon fruit to feature in dishes for fall gatherings and holiday celebrations, I recently posted the following ad in my local newspaper.

Help Wanted: Seeking an unconventional, autumn fruit with seasonal appeal, striking appearance and distinctive flavor. Proven versatility and experience in both sweet and savory dishes required. Must be available to start immediately. Apples and pears need not apply.

Both Hachiya Persimmon and Fuya Persimmon replied. After speaking to each of them over the phone, I invited both Persimmon sisters to my kitchen for a formal interview.

When the Persimmons arrived, I noticed several prominent family features- taught and glossy skin, orange coloring and sage green caps. Beyond that, each sister sported her own distinctive characteristics. Hachiya, about 3 inches round with a pointed base, resembled a super-sized acorn. Her complexion was deeper and more vibrant than her sisterís.

Fuya, petite by comparison, looked more like a miniature pumpkin or slightly flattened tomato. Her yellow-orange coloring was less conspicuous than Hachiyaís red-orange peel.

Personalities differed, too. At the outset of the interview, I found Hachiya bitter and unappetizing. But she gradually revealed a softer, sweeter side that made her an appealing candidate for the fall fruit position.

Conversely, Fuyaís demeanor never changed. She remained consistently crisp and efficient throughout our meeting. As engaging as her sister, Fuya also appeared an apt contender for the next-great-seasonal-fruit opportunity.

Hachiya and Fuya eagerly answered my questions. They seemed to enjoy sharing the details of their culinary experience- even if their responses were occasionally punctuated by sibling jabs.

I knew it would be difficult to choose between the Persimmon sisters. Perhaps youíll understand how I arrived at my hiring decision after reading the transcript of my interview with them.

JSB: Please tell me a little bit about your background.
Fuya: Well, I speak for both of us when I say that we are native to China. Our family has spread throughout the world, first to other Asian countries including Japan and Korea, and then, in the mid 1800ís to the United States- specifically the state of California. Hachiya and I are the Persimmons most commonly found here in the States, but there are more than 2000 varieties in our family world-wide.

Hachiya: And, we insist on moderate, sub-tropical climates where both winters and summers are mild. Nothing less will do for a Persimmon!

JSB: I see. How will I know you are ready to devote yourselves to enhancing my seasonal and holiday dishes?

Hachiya: Oh, you will know because Iíll be the most beautiful shades of deep orange and intense red- ah, yes, reflective of the autumn leaves. My texture will grow perfectly soft and tender. Iíll require sensitive handling and refrigeration so that I remain intact and simply perfect for your autumn dishes. You and I will accomplish great things- so long as we do so within a few days, before I over-ripen.

Fuya: Well Iím no prima donna who needs pampering. I am a hardy fruit; much more resilient and independent than my dear, but mushy sibling. Iíll turn a lovely yellow-orange just like the seasonís golden hues. I will remain firm and require nothing more than a little counter space where Iíll get along fine for weeks. I cause no fuss, not me.

Hachiya: Forgive me for saying so my beloved sister, but it must be noted that, although you certainly appear more, shall we say, dense, you are quite prone to internal bruising. And as we know, your propensity for damage is only revealed once you are put to use. Such a pity. So it is best to handle you gently, too.

Fuya: Hmmph!

JSB: I, um, understand. Moving on then, please tell me about any unique qualifications each of you would bring to this assignment?

Hachiya: First, we are both most definitely seasonal fruits. Our harvest months begin in October and we hit our peak in November and December. Weíll stretch into January in some climates.

Fuya: Thatís certainly true, but our unique flavors are also worth bragging about. While my sister Hachiya, when ripe, and only when ripe, is delicately flavored and frequently compared to tree fruits such as peaches, apricots and mangos- I am often compared to apples in texture and pears in flavor. Both of us are noted for our subtle but distinctive spice notes- so befitting the fall and winter seasons.

Hachiya: Not to mention our high vitamin A, beta-carotene, and potassium content.

JSB: Seasonal, flavorful and nutritious, all good qualities. Tell me what type of work have you been most effective in?

Hachiya: Hereís where we shine independently. I am used after Iíve ripened. I am typically pureed and melded into puddings, cookie batters, smoothies and other sweet things. Fuya, on the other hand, is usually employed as a raw apple might be- as a crunchy component in salads or in salsas or relishes that finish a dish with distinctive fall flair.

JSB: What else should I know about you before making a hiring decision?

Fuya: We both work well with our fall colleagues such as nuts, dried fruits, maple syrup and spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. With us on your team, you will surprise your guests with an unheralded but sensational seasonal fruit flavor that adds a rich accent to familiar autumn dishes.

JSB: What about references?

Hachiya: Here; Iíve brought a bundle of fall recipes that attest to the breadth of our contributions to autumn gatherings.

JSB: If selected for this role, when could you begin?
Fuya and Hachiya: If itís mid to late autumn, weíre ready now!

In the end, I found it surprisingly easy to extend an offer to Fuya. . .and Hachiya. I suggested that Fuya come on board to work on appetizers, salads and main course accompaniments; and I offered Hachiya breakfast and dessert assignments. Both readily accepted.

I am pleased to report that together, Hachiya, Fuya and I are introducing new seasonal dishes, both sweet and savory, to friends and family. The distinctive flavors of the Persimmon sisters have exceeded my expectations, and more importantly, brought curious smiles to my guestsí faces.

If youíd like to shake up your fall menus, put a persimmon- or two- to work in your kitchen!

Persimmon Clouds
Makes four Ĺ cup desserts

This super-quick dessert takes advantage of the best qualities of both Hachiya and Fuya persimmons. Itís a perfect, light finish to a hearty fall meal.

Equipment:
Electric blender

Ingredients
2 ripe Hachiya persimmons, peeled, seeded, chopped
ľ cup maple syrup
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
ľ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup well chilled whipping cream

Topping:
4 Tablespoons finely chopped toasted walnuts
2 Fuya persimmons, peeled and diced


Place chopped Hachiya persimmons, maple syrup, lemon juice, cinnamon and vanilla in a blender. Puree until the mixture is smooth. Add the whipping cream and process until the fruit and cream mixture are fully incorporated and thick.

Spoon the mixture into four 4 ounce ramekins. Refrigerate 30 minutes to 2 hours.

Just before serving, top each dessert with equal portions of the nuts and diced Fuya persimmons.

Written By: Jane Staley Boaz, a freelance food and wine writer located in Cincinnati, Ohio. Visit her website at www.jsboaz.com.

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