(Click photos to enlarge)
When we moved into our house four or five years ago, I tasted one of the persimmons growing on the tree in our yard. It was a nice orange color, so I assumed it was ripe and ready to eat. I peeled off the skin and took a bite. It was awful, like sticking a spoonful of alum in my mouth. I threw the accursed fruit in the trash.
The next year I read that persimmons tasted better if you soaked them in brine first. I tried it. It was like eating a salty styptic pencil.
The year after that, someone told me to wait until the fruits were mushy. I waited. The few that made it to the mushy stage without being violated by squirrels were delicious, and had a custard-like texture.
This year, I read an article in the Oct/Nov 2008 issue of Mother Earth News, written by Winifred Bird, titled "Finding the Good Life in Japan." Bird is living the self-sufficient good life in rural Japan with her husband. In the article she explains how to dry persimmons the Japanese way.
If you want to try it yourself, use astringent persimmons, such as ‘Hachiya’ or ‘Honan Red.’ Pick or buy fruits when they are orange but still hard and inedible. If picking them yourself, use a clipper and cut the stem twig so it forms a small T above the fruit for easy hanging. Peel the fruit with a knife or vegetable peeler. Use sturdy string to tie the fruits from their twigs in a line, so they do not touch when hung vertically. Hang outside in a place that is protected from rain and snow, such as from nails or a horizontal pole under the eaves of the house. (I have also had luck drying persimmons without stems using clips or on flat baskets – just make sure to turn often.) When the fruit begins to soften (one to two weeks), gently squeeze and massage each one. Repeat this after a few more weeks. They are done when dark brown, leathery and shrunken, but not overly hard – about one or two months. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or a cool, dry place. Enjoy Japanese style, as a snack with roasted green tea (hojicha) or ginger tea.I'm trying it out. Photos of my persimmons shown above. I'll let you know how it goes.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. Come and hear Mark speak at the ALA conference in Chicago on July 1.
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