It is well and truly winter time here in Tassie.
Driving down from the home dome on Mount Nelson the other morning, Brunyfire noted how the acclaimed Bridgewater Jerry’s icy fingers reached across the city below……. …….. and was reminded once more of winter’s grip. I was on my way to my new favourite breakfast cafe in Battery Point, the Jam Jar Lounge Cafe. The dreary bleakness of the surrounding cottage gardens around Battery Point at this time of year – classic little stone, whaler’s cottages that form the distinctive character of this area – was very evident. Gardens that are usually a riot of colourful traditional British style cottage garden flowers and trees, where this time shrouded in drabness.
However, amongst the greyness, the dried up sticks and the soggy dead leaves of this dormant time, there was a surprising splash of colour.
Persimmons.I’d been aware of these curious looking fruits since the late 90s after returning from a conference on the occasion of the IAC’s (International Academy of Ceramics) 37th General Assembly in Nagoya and Saga, Japan. As part of the activities, we members were invited to the beautiful home and workshop of Sakaida Kakiemon XIV (1934-2013) in Arita.Sakaida Kakiemon XIV, was a legendary master of Arita porcelain and a living national treasure of Japan (he died of cancer at 78 just a matter of weeks ago). He began working with ceramics after graduating from Tama Art University’s Faculty of Art and Design in 1958 with a degree in Japanese painting. Following the death of Kakiemon XIII, he assumed the name of Kakiemon in 1982.
Sakaida Kakiemon XIV was an original descendent of Sikaida Kizaemon (1596-1666) who was popularly credited with being one of the first in Japan to discover the secret of on-glaze enamel decoration on porcelain, known as ‘Akae’. He was bestowed the name ‘Kakiemon’ by his overlord at the time for perfecting a design of twin persimmons (kaki: persimmon) and for developing the distinctive palette of soft red (in addition to yellow, bleu and turquoise green) that typified the colour of the persimmon.
(The above is a white square vase with persimmon patterns produced by Sakaida Kakiemon XIV in 2012 for the TOBI Exhibition in New York)
Finding myself in a quiet street with an overloaded tree that was overhanging a nearby fence on my way home, I chanced a quick forage and was caught red-handed when the owner of the house came out to deposit her rubbish in the outdoor garbage bin. Somewhat red faced, I asked if it was OK to pick a few, and the owner was most generous in not only letting me pick a basketful, but also high-lighting which were the ripest for eating. They are an intriguing fruit…….………looking more like tomatoes than apricots, and with a weird internal structure whose ‘seeds’ are referred to as ‘pits’.And the pits is what my first impression of its taste was!Persimmons are sometimes compared to apricots or plums in flavor and texture, and when fully ripe are supposed to have cinnamon, clove, and sweet undertones. Seems a bit overoptimistic a description to me! I’ve tried these, and suspect the fruit I tasted might not have been ripe enough, as the prevailing sensation I had with my first tasting experience was one of a lasting dry furriness – a weird sense of tongue numbing astringency!
The two most common varieties of persimmons appears to be the Fuyu and the Hachiya and it is the latter that I’m pretty sure is what I’d harvested. The key difference between the two is their level of astringency which is due to the amount of tannins that they contain.
The following warning information was found on wikiHow: If you eat the Hachiya type of persimmon before it’s completely ripe, you will find it bitter and chalky, and have the strongest mouth puckering experience of your life. It will numb your lips and tongue for a short moment. However, you can avoid this by soaking the persimmon in salt water for a minute before you eat it. The salt will remove most of the bitter taste in your mouth. Alternately, simply wait until the Hachiya persimmon is soft and ripe. Or freeze the persimmon, and the chalky, tangy, bitter taste will be gone. The fruit can be defrosted in the microwave and then eaten in all its’ warm gooey splendor.
Not being sure of the ripeness of my foraged supply I placed the fruit in a bag with a couple of bananas in the hopes they’d ripen up, which they seemed to do after about a week and then turned this batch into a couple of jars of Persimmon Jelly. (Check out Medlar Magic for the recipe).