Friday, October 17, 2008

The Ubiquitous Persimmon

Persimmons. What the hell are they, and why can't you walk three steps in the city of Seoul without finding them on sale--or indeed, on my walk to school every morning, hanging in abundance from trees on practically every street?

Persimmons on the tree, from
Well, the answer to the last bit is easy: those are persimmon trees, so you would hardly expect pears or pomegranates to be hanging from them in abundance. But let's get down to brass tacks.

What is a persimmon? It is an ancient fruit, much cherished in medieval Europe for its curative powers when applied to digestive ailments, often called--or maybe confused with--the medlar. It is a pale yellow to orange fruit, ranging in size from a fist to a double fist, depending on variety. It grows on a deciduous tree with broad, stiff leaves, native to China, and the fruit is eaten raw or cooked, fresh or dried.

Persimmons, from
Oriental varieties are subdivided into two types: astringent (sour) and non-astringent. Astringent types should ripen fully--well, nearly rot--before being eaten, otherwise your mouth will pucker so severely your chin will touch your forehead. Non-astringent types can be eaten like apples, most commonly the fuyu, though they're still rather tart.

Like pears and apples, they appear in vast quantities at E-Mart (and street corner vendor carts) in gift boxes at the beginning of October. Mr Hwang explained to me that this year was a particularly good crop, but next year there won't be nearly so many. I went to the internet to try to find a basis for this prediction. I came up empty on that front, but I did find a blog report about Korea's first crop circle:

Crop circle pic from
Back to persimmons, on the way to school this morning, Mr Hwang and I walked past a street corner hawker with a cart full of 'em, so I asked him about their popularity, and later in the paper today I saw a persimmon recipe. Well, to the extent you can call "cup up fruit, dip in melted chocolate, chill, and serve" a recipe.

1 comment:

koogi said...

You sometimes get this as a dessert in more expensive Korean BBQ restaurants. Cold and tasty.