I remember a neighborhood in Kansas called “Persimmon Hill.” I had to ask what a persimmon is. An answer of “Some kind of fruit, I think,” proves the persimmon’s fall from grace in America. It is something akin to a living antique, a relic of settlers long past. As far as I know, most persimmon “back home” rot on the trees due to a general lack of knowledge of what they are or how to eat them.
Korea has cured me of my ignorance of this tasty fall fruit. Persimmon look kind of like an orange colored tomato, but they taste like a spiced apple. They even look as if they are sprinkled with natural cinnamon inside.
In Korea, persimmon are eaten in four basic ways:
- Fresh and slightly unripe - my favorite. The texture is a bit harder and less grainy than an apple, but the cinnamon flavor is most pronounced.
- Fresh and very ripe. These are so soft and sugary that they are almost like eating straight jelly, and in fact, you basically have to use a spoon or fork for these.
- Ripe and frozen - Put those same super-rich fruit in the freezer, and you’ve got a natural popsicle.
- Dried - I guess it’s the very ripe fruit that are dried, but honestly I don’t like these very much.
Fall in Korea is marked by ancient persimmon trees barren of leaves dotting the sky with small orange globes. They look somewhat forlorn, dangling precariously on black wiry branches against the gray wintering skies. But harvest those same lonely fruit into bushels, and those fiery little orbs add joy to the season and to the table.