Friday, February 3, 2012

Georgia: The Land of Decadently Delicious Persimmons

A bowl of persimmons for dessert, Mtskheta, Georgia
 
Now having tasted the persimmons in Georgia, both off the tree and dried, I believe the origin story should have involved Adam and Eve and a persimmon rather than an apple.

These aren't the persimmons found most often in the U.S., which are lip-pursing tart until way down the road of ripening.

No, the persimmons in Georgia are, best as I can tell, actually the Fuyu variety of Asian persimmons, a crop that I'd love to see adopted by Americans.

They are sweet and crisp. Wherever you looked in the fall you saw trees laden with large, heavy persimmons. When the leaves fell off, the orangey persimmons remained on the tree, providing splashy color to naked limbs. 

Dried persimmon and churchkhela, Rustavi, Georgia


As much as I enjoyed the ripe persimmons, I was unprepared for the experience of the dried persimmon, a full-on sensory extravaganza.


Dried persimmon, Rustavi, Georgia


White powdery sugar coats the outside of the fruit. 

Dried persimmon and churchkhela, Rustavi, Georgia

 
The persimmon is fleshy to squeeze and chewy to eat.

Dried persimmon, Rustavi, Georgia


You take a bite and it's like biting into a soft caramel. The flavor is similar to that of a very fine date.

Dried persimmon, Rustavi, Georgia


To create these magnificent sweets, you:  
  1. Pick persimmons before they are ripe - when they have started to turn from green to yellow, and they are still hard - generally in September
  2. Peel the skins
  3. String a number of the persimmons together and hang them in a shady spot that gets a breeze
  4. Wait til they are "ripe," when the sugar coats the outside, three months or so
  5. Store in a box or sack

Dried persimmon, Rustavi, Georgia


It is amazing to me how the sugar within moves through the fruit until it flowers on the outside.

In the wikipedia article on persimmons, I find this disturbing excerpt:

Unripened persimmons

Unripened persimmons contain the soluble tannin shibuol, which, upon contact with a weak acid, polymerizes in the stomach and forms a gluey coagulum, a "foodball" or phytobezoar, that can affix with other stomach matter.[12] These phytobezoars are often very hard and almost woody in consistency. More than 85% of phytobezoars are caused by ingestion of unripened persimmons.[13] Persimmon bezoars (diospyrobezoars) often occur in epidemics in regions where the fruit is grown.[14][15][16] Diospyrobezoars should not be of concern when consuming moderate quantities of persimmons. One case in medical literature from 2004 revealed a 51-year old patient who had eaten a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of unpeeled persimmons each day for 40 years.[17][18] Cases have been rare and required surgical removal, but more recently chemical depolymerization by Coca-Cola has been used.[19]

Not sure which is more alarming, the bit about the "gluey foodball" created by eating unripened persimmons or that Coke is used to dissolve it.

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