Fall vegetables and fruits continue in abundance at the local farmers markets and in our backyards.
This lovely fruit simply says autumn to me. It has a beautiful orange color, and two very different and interesting textures, making it great fun to play with in the kitchen. For the uninitiated, it is really important to know the difference between the two different varieties of persimmons, so you get the kind that will work for how you want to eat them.
The fuyu persimmon is the one most people seem to prefer now that it has become more widely available. Fuyus are the ones that look like they have been squashed. They are also the kind that can be eaten while they are still firm, and you can even eat the skin. You only need to cut out the green/brown cap and leaflets, and it is ready to consume.
The fuyus can be peeled or left unpeeled, cut into slices or cubes, and used in fruit cups and plates, as an addition to a salad, or a garnish for things like chicken curry.
The hachiya persimmon is more elongated, sort of acorn-shaped. These persimmons must be eaten after the flesh becomes like jelly. Any sooner and you will feel like you just ate a mouthful of cotton balls. But when they are ripe, they are so sweet and unctuous, so this is the preferred fruit for things like persimmon bread, cookies, bars, puddings, jams, compotes and the like.
When they are ripe enough to eat, you can just cut away the cap, and scoop the flesh out with a big spoon.
A helpful tip is that you can just put these persimmons into a plastic bag in the freezer, and when you thaw them they will be perfect for your persimmon cooking. I recently blended some with a touch of persimmon vinegar (you could use rice vinegar), safflower oil, salt and pepper to make a vinaigrette dressing.
One more thing — many people like to dry persimmons in a food dehydrator and eat them in place of candy, or add them to a bowl of oatmeal, into muffins, and so on. They dry very nicely.
Baby arugula is one of those greens that you can commonly find year round. But buying it at the farmers market takes this to another level. It is so much fresher, and each little leaf seems to have been picked with the utmost care. The flavor profile is slightly peppery, but not spicy hot, rather like the pepperiness of a radish.
I like to sauté it very quickly with or without garlic, use it in a salad or as a salad all on its own, or even as a topping for pizza or addition to a quick pasta. You can add it to a salsa verde, make pesto with it, and tuck it into sandwiches. The uses are nearly endless.
With the persimmons in the market, I recently made a lovely salad of baby arugula dressed with the hachiya vinaigrette recipe noted in the persimmon section above, and plated with pieces of fuyu persimmon, sprinkled with pomegranate seeds. To make it more substantial just add a nice local goat cheese, and a few toasted almonds.
There are so many names for this lovely fruit, yet so few people know that they are edible and what to do with them. In addition to being called cactus fruit, they are called Tuna in Spanish and fichi d’India in Italian, and yet another name, prickly pears in English.