The tree is a stunning specimen – broad-spreading angular branches, the fruit are like bright glossy orange Christmas baubles deliberately dangled from the tree and, in the fruit bowl and on the plate, they look and taste spectacular.
They are the genus diospyros or persimmon from the ebony family of trees – diospyros from the ancient Greek words ‘dios’ and ‘pyron. An etymologist wangled this to mean divine fruit.
It’s the end of autumn and the beginning of winter and that’s when the persimmon fruit matures. They are plentiful and affordable right now. Two varieties are generally found in New Zealand.
The hayica is heart-shaped and can only be eaten when it’s completely ripe because the tannins make it sour otherwise. When ripe, the fruit softens to a jelly consistency. Great in a smoothie.
The other is the fuyu – flatter, wider and with a crunchy texture. Rip into it like an apple. The skin is very edible. The new varieties don’t have the big black pips either.
Persimmons contain varying nutrients but they are generally rich in vitamins A, B and C and contain calcium and iron. They can be cooked, dried, frozen or eaten raw. Salads, deserts, drinks – and sliced, they can also be used as a spectacularly bright bed for slices from a filet of meat.
It’s easy just to gaze on persimmon in the fruit bowl. But they don’t keep well. Eat them or freeze them.
Most New Zealanders are only now embracing the persimmon even though they have featured in the Asian diet for centuries. Try a persimmon – they taste even better than they look. One bite will convert you.