Witch’s Christmas: Persimmon Trees in December

December 8, 2008 / Food & Wine
Persimmons are one of the few consolations to come with the onset of winter. It is an odd fruit that rarely leaves people indifferent; you either love them or hate them. To some the sweet slippery texture of a ripe persimmon popping into your mouth is a sensual delight, to others who have happened on a hard and puckeringly bitter one (Italians say they tie your teeth – legano i denti), it is deemed downright disgusting. (But then again, if you were given a name like kaki – the Italian word for persimmon*- you might want to assault someone too!)

Part of the problem is that the trees come in two general categories: those that bear fruit that is hard, astringent, and inedible until fully ripe (will keep in the fridge for a month, or in the freezer for 6!) and those that bear non-astringent fruit (eat immediately). If you see them at your fruttivendolo it’s best to ask which type they are.

For most of the year the persimmon tree is green and lush, though not particularly intriguing. But come Autumn the leaves turn breathtaking shades of yellow, orange and red. I recently stopped to admire a grove of huge trees that must have been centuries old and so tall that the farmers hadn’t even tried to pick the fruit at the top. It was like an enchanted forest. Stripped of its leaves and with the crooked branches exposed, these trees – with their dangling orangy red fruits – look like something out of a witch’s Christmas catalog.

*If you’re in a swank restaurant and get the urge for a persimmon but don’t feel like using a word that sounds like it shouldn’t be in polite company, you can also employ the term ‘loto’.

Barbara Goldfield

by Barbara Goldfield

Owner of “Savour The Sannio”, www.savourthesannio.com, a travel consultancy for central and southern Italy.

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