Thursday, November 8, 2012

Persimmon Season: Will It Be Sweet?

"Will it be sweet                                         
this Japanese persimmon
the first in my hand?"

Shibu karo ka
shira nedo kaki no
hatsu chigiri?

--- Chiyo-ni
(1703- 1775)

Chiyo-ni  was one of the foremost haiku poets of the Japanese Edo period (1603- 1868). Her work was particularly revered for its poetic quality of "shizen to hitotsu ni naru"  or "oneness with nature". It is said that she composed this haiku while contemplating the future of her recent marriage.

Persimmons are inspirational for their beauty but also for their taste, and one of the sweetest moments of the year for me is the appearance of the first persimmons in local produce markets. It is my annual ritual to spend a November morning on the chilly streets of San Francisco seeking out the most perfect persimmons to store up for the coming weeks of winter, when throughout the dark days, rows of ripening orange fruit brighten my kitchen.

Whether Chiyo-ni's marriage was sweet, or bitter like an unripe persimmon is unknown. Perhaps hints can be found in her poetry, which she began writing at the age of seven. By seventeen,  her talent for writing clear, pure haiku was well known. In her later years she took vows and lived the contemplative, austere life of a Buddhist. Perhaps even then she permitted herself an occasional taste of the sweet fruit of the persimmon tree.

Note: Previous posts contain extensive details on how to select, store and eat Fuyu and Hachiya persimmons. To access them, click on the "persimmons" label on the right hand column of the blog. My favorite persimmon recipe is below:

Persimmon Smoothie

1 Fuyu persimmon
1 cup nut milk or soy milk, plus extra as needed
fresh nutmeg, grated

Wash the persimmon and remove the calyx. Cut into a few pieces and remove any seeds. Place fruit, nut or soy milk and nutmeg in blender and process until smooth, adding a little extra nut or soy milk if too thick.  Serve immediately, garnished with a little more nutmeg, or store up to a few hours in the fridge.