Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Persistence of Persimmons

Persimmon drawing Dec. 14, 2016

Yesterday I tasted for the first time the luscious autumn fruit, the persimmon, Diospyros kaki, that is the Japanese persimmon.  Leslie gave it to me as we walked around the Bronx Zoo with Aya and Jim. I stared at a peacock under an oak tree and ate my persimmon.  It was the fuyu persimmon or non-astringent type, which means that it has less tannin and can be eaten fresh.  It is like a squat, sun-colored tomato and can be eaten like a ripe tomato or apple.  It is even a little crunchy unless the one you get is soft and very ripe; mine still had its crunch.   It can also be cut into smaller chunks and put in salads and or cooked.  Persimmons originally came from China and the tree spread into Korea and Japan, and made it to the United States in 1856 via Japan and Commodore Perry. 

Some persimmon trees are dioecious, which means they have separate male and female trees.  There are also some monoecious ones, which means that the male and female flowers grow on the same tree.  The female flowers are cream-colored and the male flowers are pink. 

Persimmons are supposed to be healthy fruits that have lots of Vitamins C, A. E, and B6.  Sounds a bit like the New York subway system.  They are said to be good for the eyes, protect against breast and prostate cancer, and boost the ability to fight free radicals.  For such little fruits, they pack quite a punch and they taste good too.  So here’s my take on persimmons and on other fruits and vegetables one may not know--try them.  Give them a chance.  There’s a real possibility you will find something that will actually make your life a little brighter and tastier if you are willing to take a risk.

Excerpt from “Persimmons” by Li-Young Lee

My mother said every persimmon has a sun
inside, something golden, glowing,
warm as my face.

Once, in the cellar, I found two wrapped in newspaper,
forgotten and not yet ripe.
I took them and set both on my bedroom windowsill,
Where each morning a cardinal
sang, The sun, the sun.