Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Persimmons: the Italian way and the Japanese way






I have fond memories of eating cachi (Italian for persimmons) as a child in Italy. Ahhhh delicious sweet cachi, from October to December, always so soft that they were bought in trays from the fruit vendors, and then Mum would put them in a bowl, give us a spoon, and let us enjoy the runny soft flesh. Then at 19 I went to live in the UK, and for 6 years I had no persimmons, with one exception. To be honest I could not believe how little fruit they had in the UK (back then), every house I went in seemed to have only three types of fruit: oranges, green apples and bananas. Berries and stone fruit were luxuries and mostly used canned, or to top desserts. There was exotic fruit but mainly in fruit baskets given as presents (with the exception of the previously mentioned bananas, and the occasional pineapple). Persimmons were probably considered exotic too, although things may be different now. During those six year the only time I saw them was when a friend, married to a Japanese lady and with a catering business (so he knew where to get unusual fruit) offered me some. I didn't even know the English name, but I discovered that the Italian name cachi sounds like the Japanese name Kaki. And then I was surprised to see that the kaki where hard, not soft, and cut into slices and peeled.
Definitely a different variety, I thought: hard cachi were impossible to eat in Italy, as they tasted really unripe. I did eat my slices, and they were nice, but then I left the remaining kaki that my friend gave me to ripen fully until soft enough to be eaten with a spoon :-). They were smaller and tasted a bit different from the Italian ones, but they were still good, and a real treat (although my English boyfriend was disgusted by my way of eating them). 






After London I went to live in Tokyo for three and a half years, and I had plenty of kaki there! I learned to eat them the Japanese way too, and yes, I do enjoy them, and occasionally I still eat them cut into slices (especially if I eat them on the low table in my Japanese room, something nice to do in Autumn and Winter). In Italy my aunt has two persimmon trees, one for soft and one for the smaller, Japanese type that can be eaten hard. But I still prefer the soft ones, (and so does my daughter).

A funny story now:
In Tokyo I lived in front of a tiny greengrocer shop. When kaki were in season I checked from my window the colour, to assess the ripeness. I learned that yes, some Japanese did eat them with a spoon also, but mostly they just like them sliced and peeled, so the over-riped and soft didn't really sell. As soon as the kaki looked soft enough I went out and started my bargaining with the old greengrocer.
"They are a bit soft, aren't' they?"
"Yes, but they are still very good! You can eat them with a spoon!"
"Mmmh"
"What about 100 yen for the lot?"
"Ok!"
The bargaining was purely ceremonial. Of course he worked out pretty quickly that I like them soft, (I didn't buy any other fruit or vegetable that looked old or over ripe, even when he tried to sell it to me) so much that the days I failed to notice soft kaki he would call out to me:
"Hey, honorable foreigner, I have some soft kaki for you!"
"Mmmh, so you have..."
 "What about 100 yen for the lot?"
"Ok!" :-)

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©









30 comments:

  1. I love perssimons Alessandra and.hubby more:)and he loves to eat to italian way lol only with a spoon; in many houses there are persimons trees and are typical of this time (winter) and sometimes I made nice recipes with them!

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  2. Goog to see someone else writing from the Southern Hemisphere Gloria, so I don't feel out of season!

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  3. Hey Alessandra,

    Thanks for the award; that is so sweet of you to think of my little blog! Sorry it took me so long to respond; I've been offline for the last few weeks. I couldn't see how to post a comment on your vegan food blog, so I thought I'd touch base here.

    As for persimmons, I love them too; they are one of my top 5 favorite fruits. Have you tried baking them? I've never tried this, but I remember a really good post about them on Alien's Day Out blog, where she made persimmon pops, which I have been meaning to try.

    I lived in Ireland for many years, and the fruit situation is the same as you describe in the UK...nowadays they have more variety, but so much of it is shipped in from so far away (especially summer fruits) that they have been harvested while still green; they're expensive and not very good. Eating summer fruits in season is the one thing I think I missed the most living there.

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  4. I never tried to bake persimmons, but I ate dried persimmons (in Japan) and persimmon jam (in Italy) good, but I still prefer raw persimmons! It is a fruit that is suited to cold climates too, so maybe it could grow in the North of Europe?? I wonder!

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    1. Oh yes, I'm sure they grow well in places like the UK and Ireland. They grow here in the cool, rainy Pacific Northwest and will be in full swing come autumn. I think that perhaps in Ireland, UK...they just don't have as much variety in their commercial orchards/farming. Interesting to explore further. :)

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    2. All those famous British chefs have brought in a lot of Mediterranean and Asian ingredients, but it will take time for a nation to change a diet.

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  5. What an interesting read, loved it! First time I've tried hard persimmons was about 10 years ago, before that I had only had the soft one, the European.

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  6. E pensare che in Italia quasi non se li fila nessuno!!
    Pensa che qui dove vivo ci sono alberi e alberi in campagna che restano con i loro pomi maturi e nessuno li raccoglie!!

    Anche io ho provato ad utilòizzarli in cucina, ma riconosco che danno il loro meglio consumati nature!!

    buona giornata

    loredana

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    1. Davvero? Dove abitavo io in autunno li mangiavano tutti, e non crescevano neppure li (vivevo in montagna, oltre i mille metri, forse troppo in alto? Tutti i cachi venivano da fuori).

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  7. A dire la verità invece nella mia famiglia hanno sempre avuto un successone!! Ne consumiamo a chili...grazie anche all'albero che abbiamo nel giardino di cui parliamo giusto oggi nel post....però sono quelli morbidi. I persimon per noi sono una scoperta recente, io li trovo buonissimi! Ho da pochi anni ricominciato a mangiarli, i cachi, dopo che avevo fatto indigestione da piccola...:-/
    Ma com'è stato vivere in Giappone?....è affascinante avere queste esperienze di vita in posti così diversi....

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    1. Per me e' stato bellissimo e ci sono tornata tante volte, amo il Giappone! Vengo a vedere il vostro post! :-)

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  8. Sono bellissimi, non c'è che dire: ma sai che forse sono uno dei pochissimi cibi che non riesco a mangiare? :-(

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    1. Anche a mio figlio non piacciono, strano perché finora e' l'unica cosa da mangiare che non gli piace...

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  9. anche a me piacciono tanto... avevamo un albero ma è bruciato =(( però quando sono acerbi i nostri allappano la bocca in un modo assurdo! xD

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    1. Ecco la parola giusta, allappano... di solito usavo 'legano la bocca'. :-)

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  10. Hehe well I happen to love soft persimmons! I had my first one when I lived in Japan too :)

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  11. ciao Alessandra! Mi sono letta il tuo post dalla prima all'ultima parola... ho un caco in giardino e ovviamente li mangio morbidi col cucchiaino ^.^ Mi ha divertito leggere la storiella ^___^ e penso: che meraviglia, hai vissuto per tanti anni in due città meravigliose.

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  12. IO li ho sempre visti mangiare dai miei, ma ho cominciato ad amarli dallo scorso anno..amore folle!Io mangio sempre quelli molli, quest che si possono affettare sonoq uelli che noi chiamiamo "cachi-vaniglia".Il prossimo autunno proverò un po' di ricette anzichè papparmeli frullati!
    Bacione

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  13. Ho una vicina con degli alberi, forse dovrei andare a trovarla...

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  14. Great story - you are really well traveled. Well, being a Brit I have to confess I've never eaten a persimmon - living in the states I'm sure I could find them - and would love to do so - soft - scooped out with a spoon!
    Mary x

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    1. Ok, my mission now is to get persimmons appreciated in the UK and Ireland :-)!!!!

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  15. quando ho visto la foto ho pensato di essere in un vecchio post.....dimenticavo che voi siete a testa in giù ^_______^
    se ti può interessare ti lascio un link per un cake con i cachi, ciauzzzzzz

    http://www.kitchenbloodykitchen.com/2010/12/cheicaicachi-ovvero-la-torta-veganiana.html

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  16. eh si....anche io sono rimasta un po' lì...dicevo ma questi sono cachi....e poi mi sono ricollegata la testolina....che buoni i cachi....io ne vado matta :)

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  17. I really enjoyed your story. Persimmons are hard to come by here, but the next time I see them I'll scoop them up. You've made them sound irresistible. Have a great day. Blessings...Mary

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  18. Pensa che io li ho snobbati fino all'anno scorso e invece adesso non vedo l'ora che arrivi l'autunno per farne ancora scorpacciate. Ora li adoro!!! Ne ho fatta anche una mousse, son buonissimi.. ah e col cucchiaino è meglio :-9 Baci!

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  19. La mia mamma li adora!
    Ma che bello hai vissuto in Giappone!!!
    Baci

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  20. ne abbiamo una pianta in giardino, lo scorso anno nessun frutto, non è ancora abbastanza robusta per trattenerli sui rami fino a maturazione...quest'anno sono tantissimi e continuano a cadere verdi, speriamo che arrivino a maturazione :)

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  21. Da piccola non mi piacevano ma ora...adoro i cachi!!
    Beh.... si sa che invecchiando i gusti cambiano e in questi cambviamenti ora apprezzo anche i cachi!!
    Un bacio dalla caldissima Sorbara (Mo)
    Morena

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  22. Wow, those two words sound similar! That's interesting. I prefer cut kaki but my sister likes soft kaki. In any ways, kaki is a tasty fruit. And now I know why you know lots about Japan!

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