Persimmons and Lemon Basil: Autumn's fruit of the gods and an unexpectedly fragrant herb

Location

Alhambra Farmers Market

60 S Monterey St
Alhambra , CA 91801 United States

As fall is starting to bite, the Alhambra Source comes back from the Sunday morning farmer's market with tips and recipes, from lemon basil simple syrup to poached persimmons.

Just in time for Thanksgiving, Autumn is finally showing itself here in So Cal. Not only is the weather beginning to cool, the color of the landscape is changing. Orange is popping up everywhere: the green from the trees are fading and the fruit of the Diospyros tree are now reaching their peak. Better known as persimmons, these fruit come in two varieties that are commercially available: Fuyus and Hachiyas.

Fuyu Persimmons

Photos by Kevin Chan

Fuyus are round and squat, and have a crisp texture which is maintained while the fruit ripens. If you can imagine a tomato mixed with an apple then painted a bold orange, you have yourself a fuyu. The flavor is hard to describe. It has a subtle sweetness that is light on your palate, but in the aftertaste you get a hint of something more succulent, like you've been eating a peach with maple syrup.

Hachiya Persimmons

Photos by Kevin Chan

Hachiyas are shaped like a heart/acorn, with more of a burnt red orange color. They can be very bitter and astringent when immature, but turn very soft as they ripen, almost like a balloon filled with jello at their peak (which makes it very difficult to transport). Since hachiyas are usually eaten when super ripe, their flavor is much stronger than that of fuyus. The jelly-like texture also reinforces the ambrosial quality.

Persimmons are a rich source of antioxidants, fiber, vitamins A and B-complex. When buying, consider how soon you'll be consuming them. If you intend to eat them right away, choose persimmons that are soft and have glossy, smooth skin. Both fuyus and hachiyas will ripen at room temperature over a few days, with hachiyas showing the greater signs of transformation. You can also ripen them in a paper bag with an apple. Once ripe it is best to use them right away, or scoop out the flesh and seal away in the fridge for another day or two. I feel that persimmons are best enjoyed raw, either cut into bite size pieces for easy snacking or pureed and used in smoothies or a persimmon sherbert. For something a little warmer, you can poach them in wine, or bake them into a super moist cake. I like the recipe from Elise at Simply Recipes. I tend to cut back on some of the spices, as it overwhelms the taste of the persimmon. (Persimmons are, so far, the only fruit that look like they're already seasoned. Cut them open and I swear there's flecks of cinammon and all spice in there).

A very fragrant herb with international gusto

Photos by Kevin Chan

Typically I'll go to the market after checking what's available and in season, but more often I'll end up leaving with something I wasn't planning on picking up. In this case it was something I didn't even know existed. Popular in northeastern Africa and Southern Asia, lemon basil is appropriately named, exhibiting fragrant citrus notes as well as the spicier mint qualities of basil. There are actually a few varieties of lemon basil (Thai lemon basil, Penang lemon basil, there's even a lime basil!), but I wasn't able to find out which variety this was.

Like regular basil varieties, the flavor can be affected by prolonged cooking. It's best to use it as a finishing touch to grilled meats or over pizza. Used fresh, it can be used wherever regular basil is needed: pesto, salads,and especially over a toasted baguette and melty mozzarella. But my favorite application is to use make a lemon basil simple syrup. Perfect for lemonade, iced tea and late night cocktails (or anytime of day, really). The syrup will last about a week in the fridge, but considering how luscious it is, it probably won't make it that far.

We'll be looking for some produce to use during Thanksgiving in our next trip. If you have any suggestions for traditional (and not so traditional) foods and recipes, let us hear them!

1 thought on “Persimmons and Lemon Basil: Autumn's fruit of the gods and an unexpectedly fragrant herb”

  1. Nice and delicious article.

    I have a very old hachiya persimmon tree in my backyard here in Alhambra. It has given me fruit for all but one of the twelve years I have lived here. The fruitless year was after a heavy pruning.

    A few suggestions I have learned through experience (for hachiyas only):

    1. Unripe persimmons can be frozen. They will usually be ripe when they defrost.
    2. Ripe persimmons can be frozen for several months.
    3. If you have a persimmon tree, pick them before they are ripe. Otherwise the birds will get to them, they will splat on the ground or get too heavy and break tree branches.
    4. Some simple ideas:
    – Freeze a few persimmons. Defrost them partially, cut them in half and scoop out the pulp. It makes a great sorbet.
    – Remove the pulp from a ripe persimmon, process in a blender and freeze for use at a later date. I usually freeze two cups worth in freezer bag for use in recipes.
    – Use the pulp in smoothies. The fruit is so sweet that you don’t need to add a sweetener.
    – Add the pulp to plain yogurt. It’s adds great flavor.
    – Keep some pureed pulp in the fridge to use as a spread for toast, to add great flavor to oatmeal or just to eat by the spoonful.
    – I don’t like soft cookies, so I’m not crazy about persimmon cookies. They do make a great filling for pie, though. Think pumpkin pie, but with the distinct, wonderful taste that only fall persimmons can deliver.

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