Persimmons are still a newly discovered continent to me. I experienced my first persimmon about two years ago, in California. Sofya, a coworker of mine from Russia (St-Petersburg to be precise), had a tree laden with them in her garden, so she brought some to work for sharing. I loved that about my workplace, there was always something in the kitchen that someone had brought in – especially at Halloween and Christmas time, when everybody was trying desperately to get the darn chocolate out of the house, only to find there was even more in the office. Once, I even brought home a beautiful butternut squash that somebody had abandonned on the table with an “adopt me” note stuck to it. What can I say, I’m tender-hearted.
Anyway, back to our persimmons. I had never seen anything of the kind, and I was intrigued to say the least. She gave me two, richly orange, plump and heavy, adorned with perfectly shaped four-leaved stems. They were still pretty firm, and Sofya warned me fiercely against trying one right away, unless I wanted to discover the true meaning of astringent and puckery. Those two lovely words, but not so lovely feelings, are the persimmon’s natural weapons to discourage anyone from eating it before its seeds are mature, and ready for digestion and [hum] dispersal. It works. Sofya instructed me to leave them out to ripen for a while, stem down. So for a few weeks, my two increasingly pumpkin colored little buddies would greet me from their cubicle shelf. From time to time, when Sofya came around to chat, she would feel the fruits, wrinkle her nose, shake her head and say with her lovely accent : “Better wait a little longer“.
Until one day, when they looked about to burst and felt so soft I hardly dared pick them up, I was finally given permission to eat them. I cut one in half vertically, and scooped out the beautifully colored, syrupy flesh. Hmmm. Incredible taste, so sweet and unique!
In French, persimmons are called “kakis”, which is puzzling, as “kaki” is also the name for the color “army green”. Whoever picked the name must have been badly color blind! I didn’t really know if I would be able to find any in Paris, but, to my delight, our favorite fruit stand has been selling them for the past few weeks, 3 for 5 euros. They are already completely ripened, so the fruit guy handles them like newborn babies, and they taste just as good as I remembered…