Peak-of-the-Season Persimmons Available Now

Peak-of-the-Season Persimmons Available Now

These great orange globes are the perfect fall fruit. Haven’t tried them before? Get them for free with your coupon this week!

Fuyu persimmons growing at Fujita Farms in Morgan Hill

It’s happening, those telltale signs of the holiday season are increasing in frequency: fresh chestnuts populate our shelves, daily calls from shoppers in search of those hard-to-find ingredients for holiday recipes, and we have loads of local persimmons, those bright orange globes of fruit suspended from bare (or nearly bare) tree branches around the Bay.

It’s true that persimmons aren’t too well known, especially to those who grew up outside the Bay. We’ve overheard some customers refer to them as orange tomatoes, a new variety of apple and even “the international fruit of mystery.” For those who haven’t tried these cool-weather fruits, you’re in luck: with your coupon and a purchase of $30 or more this week (Nov. 30 – Dec. 6, 2011), you’ll get a free gift pack of locally grown Fuyu Persimmons from Morgan Hill to try with our fantastic persimmon recipes, including one from Stephanie Stiavetti, a Redwood City-native and local food blogger at TheCulinaryLife.

There are two mainstream types of persimmons on the market, the Hachiya and the Fuyu. We have both, spray-free Fuyus and pesticide-free Hachiyas, coming to us directly from two local family farmers we’ve worked with for many years: Mr. Fujita of Morgan Hill (he’s Paul Sigona’s father-in-law) and California Clean Grower Paul Buxman of Dinuba (near Fresno).

As for their flavor, persimmons have a presentation that’s all their own. Some say they taste a hint of cinnamon, brown sugar, pumpkin, plum and honey, while others describe them as having a sweet-spicy flavor similar to a  blend of mango and papaya with a bit of apricot.

Unlike the basic similarities most fruits with many varieties, such as apples or tomatoes, knowing the difference between a Hachiya and a Fuyu is detrimental to a persimmon’s success with your taste buds. Why? Well, one bite into an unripe Hachiya and you’ll probably never eat a persimmon again. Ever.

It’s easy to tell the difference between a Fuyu and a Hachiya: the Fuyu is bright orange, firm, squat and rounded. The Hachiya is darker orange, heart shaped and has a pointed end. When ripe, the Hachiya is soft to the touch. An unripe (or firm) Hachiya has a powerful astringent flavor that is very bitter, almost chalky. It’s quite unpleasant. However, the pulp from a ripe Hachiya is delicious, versatile and makes a killer bread. More on this variety in a minute.

You’ll love the sweet flavor and crisp texture of the ready-to-eat Fuyu persimmon. The Fuyu can be eaten out of hand like an apple or pear, and there is no need to peel them. The texture of Fuyus allows them to be used similarly to apples and pears, such as in a salad or cobbler, and they’re sturdy enough to be used in stir-fries as well. Fuyus do not darken when cut, so they can be sliced and made part of a vegetable or fruit tray.

My Uncle Paul picks up the fresh-picked, spray-free Fuyus from his father-in-law, Mr. Fujita, in the morning on his way in to the store. Once they arrive, they go straight up on the store shelf – now that’s fresh! Mr. Fujita, has grown Fuyus for 25 years in Morgan Hill and is our primary source for the locally grown fruits. You’ll be hard pressed to find quality Fuyus like Mr. Fujita’s elsewhere, and especially at this price!

Paul Buxman of Sweet Home Ranch in Dinuba, Calif., near Fresno, is our local source for pesticide-free Hachiya persimmons. Paul is a Certified California Clean farmer, meaning, in short, that the fruits are grown using no natural, organic or synthetic pesticides. California Clean rules are similar to organic, but are more stringent, and the farms must be less than 100 acres, with the owner & family as the primary work source (no foremen help run California Clean ranches).

This practice produces quality fruit at an affordable price. You can’t beat that.

“Our goal is never production or high levels of boxes, the only way we can survive is to give stores like Sigona’s fruit that makes customers ask, ‘do you have any more of that,’ and we stay true to that with our jams, peaches, everything,” said Paul.

Paul grows Hachiyas a bit differently than most farmers. Instead of closely packed trees, his are grown well apart, allowing for more sun to touch the fruit. “There is more sun than shade in our persimmon orchard, and you can easily see that by the appearance of the fruit itself,” said Paul.

Paul is referring to what appear to smudged black streaks on Hachiyas. The black coloring isn’t a bruise or a sign of aging, but a sign of sun exposure, making for sweeter fruit.

“The USDA did a study a few years ago to test the sweetness, flavor and other characteristics of what’s called ‘damaged fruit.’ Overall they found that some fruits with what we call ‘beauty marks’ or imperfections, were actually sweeter,” explained Paul. “This is thought to be because when a fruit is damaged as it grows, the tree feeds it more nutrients and the rate of evaporation is higher, so mineral and sugar content are condensed, making for sweeter fruit.”

Hachiyas are harvested firm as they ripen to perfection off the tree. Hachiyas should only be eaten when they’re soft. And I mean very soft. We often say it should feel like a water balloon, but Paul offered another parallel, “Imagine the way it would feel to hold a fresh egg that’s had its shell removed, but the protective layer remains — that kind of soft.”

An orchard at Sweet Home Rancy. Painting by Paul Buxman.

Most Hachiyas you’ll buy at Sigona’s are still firm overall. Once you get home, place them on the windowsill until they’re soft. Then refrigerate until you use them. Use a serrated knife to remove the thin skin to get to the pulp.

One last note about Paul and his ranch: it’s beautiful. The ground is covered in grasses, there are birds and other animals living on the property, and it’s nestled in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley. Painting and farming come naturally to Paul, and he combines the two into works of art. Literally. Visit paulbuxman.com to view some of his homestead paintings, like the one shown here.

Don’t forget to get your three free Fuyu persimmons this week (Nov. 30 – Dec. 6, 2011) with your coupon. Try out some of these fantastic fall dishes, too, such as Fuyu Persimmon Salad with Medjool Dates, Cashews and Honey as well as Broiled Hachiya Persimmon Halves With Brown Sugar.

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