Puckery, Perfect, or Preserved: Exploring Persimmons Fresh & Dried – MS/HS Lesson (PDF Download)

Posted on Categories Blog, Cooking & Preservation, Home, Plant Profiles, Plants, RecipesTags , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
How-to Hoshigaki guide available through POP’s resource and curriculum pages. Requires peeling, patience, and frequent massages!

It is no wonder that persimmon’s Latin genus name “Diospyros” translates as “food of the gods” for the fruit’s divine, sweet flavor. The fall-ripening fruit of persimmon trees are rich and jammy and its honeyed flavor can be exquisitely sweet on the palette when given the proper ripening time on or off the tree — and especially after a quick flash of frost. But variety or hasty harvester beware, for unripe persimmon fruit is also known for its astringency, inciting an unpleasant pucker on the palette.  This sensation is due the presence of tannins — a class of plant-protective phenolic compounds appearing in foods like tea, rhubarb, coffee, and chocolate — that bind to the proteins in saliva creating a tense, drying mouthfeel.  For this reason, reviews of the fruit from the unaware can be somewhat mixed! 

Still, persimmons are one of POP’s favorite fruits to plant in our community orchards — especially school orchards — due to their hardiness, resilience against pest & disease (of which there are very few!), and their ability to provide a late-fall harvest, which is a plus once the apple season wraps up and the summer’s berries and stone fruits are but a mere, sunny memory.  Persimmons rate as one of the easiest to grow fruit in our climate and when properly harvested, they are truly delicious! 

(Read more about Asian persimmons and the native American persimmon here).  

Richard Allen Preparatory sixth-graders watch footage of persimmon processing in Japan. Video linked in the downloadable lesson plan.

So — who better to test the ‘simmons with than two groups of incredibly talented, sometimes-adventurous, sometimes-hesitant Richard Allen Preparatory Charter School middle-schoolers, who’ve been working hard all year-long in designing and expanding their school garden, orchard, and palettes along with Jenny Dunker of Greener Partners?

Greener Partners’ Jenny Dunker and POP’s Education Director Alyssa Schimmel scope the fruit set on the school’s persimmon tree during the early fall.

We piloted this persimmon lesson (PDF download here) with 6th and 8th graders at the school, where they have a huge, healthy ‘Nikita’s Gift’ persimmon tree that was loaded with fruit in the summer. Most of the fruit had been harvested prior to our lesson (hopefully by community members — not squirrels!) but we called in backup, picking up flats of Asian persimmons for $6-8 from an Asian grocery store, and harvesting the native American persimmon from the grounds of the Woodlands that were shaken down from the trees’ tall branches during a community gleaning event.

Students begin the process by delicately peeling the persimmons’ outer skin.

We began with a taste test of the fruit and a brainstorm of what we might make with it to help extend the harvest, then read about the trees’ growth, care, and nutritional facts on this POP tree PDF info-sheet here, before watching two videos on caring for persimmons and learning to cure them using the Japanese traditional stringing-and-massaging mode of drying called hoshigaki (PDF how-to handout here).

Hoshigaki is a cultural delicacy in Japan, where it is frequently used to make the astringent variety of persimmons, Hachiya, more palatable. After peeling the outer skin and stringing them by the stem to hang in the sun with proper airflow and regular massages every 4-5 days to encourage the moisture and sugar to the surface to bloom (it’s often called the kobe beef of dried fruit!), the fresh, still-firm fruit is transformed in a few weeks into an intensely-flavored, still-tender dried delight that is sugar-blushed, rolled, and stored for up to a month in the fridge, or two months in the freezer.

Repair the World’s Megan Brookens and Jenny Dunker string the fruit to clothing hangers to dry.

Unfortunately, the Hachiya variety wasn’t available at the market — the non-astringent Fuyus being preferred for fresh eating — so we tried with what we had and can report back on this blog and by our social media channels with the results! Stay tuned! Because the Hachiya variety has more protective tannins, it’s said they are ideal for this method of drying, whereas the Fuyus which are higher in sugar can draw bugs and possibly develop mold, if too moist. In that case, the fruit after peeling can be flash-boiled for 10 seconds or sprayed with alcohol that can help sanitize the surface.

NOTE: Discard any hoshigaki that form greenish mold due to excessive moisture.  DO NOT CONSUME!  Again, the white bloom that forms naturally through this process is just crystallized sugars and safe to eat.

So how did the persimmons fare among Richard Allen’s reviewers? The majority of students really enjoyed them-– noting that the tomato-like fruit had buttery, spicy, squashy, and honey-flavors they thought might be delicious in cereal bars, fruit leathers, or breakfast cereal.

Two weeks later, the persimmon fruits are beginning to collapse and dry. Here, the students massage the fruit to break up the still-soft internal fruit flesh.

Educators can consider a range of follow-up activities to complement the lesson including in-class experiments on techniques for improving the sweetness of fruit by adjusting harvest time, refrigerating or freezing; exploring methods of reducing astringency by soaking, souring, etc; other culinary and recipe experiments like making persimmon breads or butters; and history extensions, conducting research on hoshigaki and other persimmon-based traditional foodways from around the world.

Jenny Dunker’s Feedback on the Lesson: “The persimmon lesson was excellent for my 6th and 8th grade students. They were drawn in to the subject through a thoughtful exploration of flavor and texture, making them eager to learn more about these fascinating trees. POP educators kept students engaged through a combination of hands on projects and multimedia. Students were excited to explore the development of the trees and fruit, propagation methods, and cultural practices surrounding the persimmon, even participating in a fruit preservation experiment! This lesson engages learners through a discovery-based exploration, broadening their tastes and providing a deeper appreciation for the trees right outside their school.”

This POP Blog Post and Curriculum Materials were written by Education Director Alyssa Schimmel with assistance from Repair the World fellow Megan Brookens.

SUPPORT US!  If you found this entry useful, informative, or inspiring, please consider a donation of any size to help POP in planting and supporting community orchards in Philadelphia: phillyorchards.org/donate

PLANT SPOTLIGHT: Persimmon (Diospyros)

Posted on Categories Blog, Canning, Cooking & Preservation, Harvesting, Home, Orchard Care, Plant Profiles, Plants, POPharvests, Propagation, Recipes, Tree Care, Wild EdiblesTags , , , , , , ,

Asian persimmons ripening at Bartram’s Garden in West Philadelphia. Non-astringent varieties can be harvested while still firm.

 PERSIMMON TREE FACTS

Asian Persimmon (Diospyros kaki) is native to China, where it has been cultivated for centuries.  Korea and Japan have also been centers of its cultivation, and it was introduced to California in the mid 1800’s. Asian Persimmons usually grow between 13-20 ft tall and wide and are self-fertile.  At our community orchards, POP usually favors planting non-astringent cultivars such as ‘Fuyu’ and ‘Jiro’.

The native American Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) is a much larger tree, growing 30-50 ft tall, but with smaller fruit. It is also more cold hardy.  Except for a few self-fertile varieties, American Persimmons require a separate male and female tree for pollination (only female trees bear fruit).  Due to limitations of space required, POP generally only plants native persimmons in larger park settings and favors self-fertile cultivars like ‘Meader’ and ‘Early Golden’.  There are also a few hybrid Asian/American persimmons varieties, including ‘Nikita’s Gift’.

Persimmons belong to the Ebenaceae botanical family, valued for its wood and fruits. Persimmons are usually propagated by grafting scionwood or buds to selected rootstock; seed stratification is also possible. Pollinators of this tree include wild bees, bumblebees, and honeybees.

Persimmons have proved one of the easiest fruits to grow in Philadelphia, with consistent harvests and few pest and disease challenges.

SEASONAL CARE

Persimmons are easy to grow with few ongoing care requirements. Asian Persimmons grow in hardiness zones 7-10 and do best in areas that have moderate winters and relatively mild summers. American Persimmons are hardier, adaptable to zones 5-9.

WINTER/SPRING: Late-winter pruning is helpful for shape and rejuvenation, with modified central leader being the most common form. In the spring, non-blooming persimmons may require an application of bonemeal to boost phosphorous.

SUMMER: Water young trees thoroughly once a week during their first year. Persimmons have few pest or disease problems in our region, thus requiring little other attention.

FALL: Persimmons are one of the latest ripening fruits in our orchard spaces. Harvest and process the fruit from October to December depending on the variety. Harvest non-astringent Asian varieties when they are hard, but fully colored (ranging from light yellow-orange to dark orange-red). American and astringent Asian varieties should not be harvested until soft, as fruit picked too early will cause your mouth to feel dry and pucker from the astringency! Sweetness is often improved after the first frost.

Volunteers harvesting American persimmons at The Woodlands in West Philadelphia. Most effective technique was to shake branches and capture fruit on a tarp below.

NUTRITIONAL BENEFITS

Before consuming persimmons, please read POP’s edible plant disclaimer below.

Persimmon fruit is a very good source of dietary fiber with 100 g containing about 9.5% of recommended daily intake of soluble and insoluble fiber. Fresh and dried Persimmon fruit also contain healthy amounts of minerals like potassium, manganese (15% of DRI), copper (12% of DRI), and phosphorus. It is moderately high in calories (provides 70 calories/100 g) but very low in fats. Persimmons can be eaten fresh, dried, and cooked. Dried persimmon fruits are popular in Japan and often used in cookies, cakes, muffins, puddings, salads and as a topping in breakfast cereal.

Disclaimer

The Philadelphia Orchard Project stresses that you should not consume parts of any wild edible plants, herbs, weeds, trees,​ or bushes until you have verified with your health professional that they are safe for you. As with any new foods that you wish to try, it is best to introduce them slowly into your diet in small amounts.

The information presented on this website is for informational, reference, and educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as a substitute for diagnosis and treatment by a health care professional. Always consult a health care professional or medical doctor when suffering from any health ailment,

disease, illness, or injury, or before attempting any traditional or folk remedies. Keep all plants away from children. As with any natural product, they can be toxic if misused. 

To the best of our knowledge,​ the information contained herein is accurate and we have endeavored to provide sources for any borrowed​ material. Any testimonials on this web site are based on individual results and do not constitute a warranty of safety or guarantee that you will achieve the same results.

Neither the Philadelphia Orchard Project nor its employees, volunteers, or website contributors may be held liable or responsible for any allergy, illness,​ or injurious effect that any person or animal may suffer as a result of reliance on the information contained on this website nor as a result of the ingestion or use of any of the plants mentioned ​herein.

A food mill or strainer can be used to separate persimmon pulp from seeds and skin for use in baked goods, fruit leather, etc.

PERSIMMON BREAD

INGREDIENTS
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup persimmon pulp
1 teaspoon baking soda
Optional: 1/2 cup walnuts, 1/2 cup raisins

DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Oil a 9×4 inch pan.
2. In a small bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, salt, nuts, and raisins.
3. In a large bowl, blend eggs, sugar, and oil. Mix baking soda into pulp, and add to bowl. Fold in flour mixture.
4. Pour batter into prepared pan.
5. Bake for 75 minutes, or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

OTHER RECIPES

Hoshigaki Japanese Dried Persimmons:
https://www.phillyorchards.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Hoshigaki-PERSIMMON-LESSON.pdfHoshigaki- Japanese Dried Persimmons

Persimmon Fruit Leather:
https://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/persimmons-zmaz70sozgoe

Harvesting and Processing Pulp for Persimmon Bread, etc:
https://www.instructables.com/id/Harvesting-Processing-Cooking-Native-Persimmon-Bre/


This POP Blog was written by 2018 Repair the World Fellow Megan Brookens with assistance from Executive Director Phil Forsyth and Admin Assistant Natalie Agoos. 

SUPPORT US!  If you found this entry useful, informative, or inspiring, please consider a donation of any size to help POP in planting and supporting community orchards in Philadelphia: phillyorchards.org/donate.


More Info:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persimmon