One of my favorite times of the year is the early winter, when I can drive through the local mountains of Northern California, and spot glowing orange persimmons peaking out from my neighbors yards and orchards. Ripe persimmons look like little pumpkin-shaped lanterns hanging off the leafless branches of their trees, and are a sweet treat just as apple season approaches its end.
Persimmons are far from indigenous in this area. Originally coming from Asia, this sweet fruit was cultivated in China for thousands of years, and subsequently swept through the rest of asia. Persimmons made their way to California in the mid 1800s along with the influx of Chinese immigrants. While the fruit is enjoyed by the masses, their calyx, or the woody top of the fruit, is commonly used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (it’s called “Shi Di”) to treat chronic hiccups. Other parts of the plant, including the leaves and roots, are commonly used in the treatment of gout, hypertension, arthritis, and respiratory diseases.
While hundreds of varieties exist, there are two main types of persimmons that we see in the stores. Fuyu is a non-astringent variety that is flat on the bottom, and eaten when it is firm and sweet. Hachiya is an astringent variety, pointed on the bottom, that must sit around and ripen off the tree until it is incredibly soft in order to be sweet enough to enjoy. This variety is incredibly high in pectin, and is great for baking with or enjoyed as a jelly or jam.
Knowing what is in season, and what grows locally is key to healthy living. While so many of us get stuck in our routine of eating the same fruits and vegetables all year long, no matter what part of the world they are coming from, I challenge you to venture out of your box, eat what’s in season, and enjoy a persimmon!!
Have some persimmons, and not quite sure what to do with them? Here is a great recipe to enjoy this season, and may be canned for the future
SPICED PERSIMMON BUTTER
20 ripe & peeled persimmons (if Fuyu, chop coarsely)
1 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup honey
4 half-pint canning jars with lids
Place persimmons into a slow cooker; amount should fill a 3-quart cooker nearly to the top. Drizzle the lemon juice over the persimmons, cover the cooker, and cook on High for about 2 hours. Mash the persimmons in the cooker with a potato masher. Stir in the cinnamon, cloves, and agave syrup, set the cooker to Low, and cook uncovered 8 hours or overnight. Stir several times if possible, to prevent burning during the long cooking period.
In the morning, transfer the persimmon mixture to a blender, filling the pitcher no more than halfway full. Hold down the lid of the blender with a folded kitchen towel, and carefully start the blender, using a few quick pulses to get the persimmon butter moving before leaving it on to puree. Puree in batches until smooth. If you have an immersion blender, you can puree the persimmon butter right in the cooker if desired.
Sterilize the jars and lids in boiling water for at least 5 minutes. Pack the persimmon butter into the hot, sterilized jars, filling the jars to within 1/4 inch of the top. Run a knife or a thin spatula around the insides of the jars after they have been filled to remove any air bubbles. Wipe the rims of the jars with a moist paper towel to remove any food residue. Top with lids, and screw on rings. Allow the jars to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate the jars; persimmon butter will keep for several weeks.