An Unexpected Sensation

Whole PersimmonCut up Persimmon

A friend introduced me to persimmons last fall.

She came into work one day with a fruit that looked like a squishy orange tomato with an odd green cap. “Try it,” she commanded, always ready to introduce me to some exotic new fruit. The act of picking it up left a thumb sized dent in the very soft fruit. It was so ripe that I could feel the flesh ready to tear away.

I took a bite, and an impossible sweetness filled my mouth. The taste is like nothing else I’ve ever had, and I couldn’t get enough of them that year. In Louisiana, persimmon trees grow in people’s yards, bearing so much fruit that friends and neighbors beg you to take them away. I ate as many as I could get my hands on.

Now that I live in Seattle, I have easy access to so much fresh produce that I have counted myself lucky this summer. But no one seems to have a persimmon tree. So, a couple of weeks ago, I did something that I’ve never done before. I bought a persimmon. Hard as an apple, I knew that it wasn’t ready to eat yet. So, I waited, checking it daily. Finally, yesterday, I noticed that the fruit had finally softened.

I decided that I wanted to eat it at work, so I put it in my backpack and took it with me on my bus commute, careful not to let it be jostled. When I got to work, it seemed softer yet, and I thought it would be all right to eat. Perhaps a bit unripe, not as sweet, but I couldn’t wait any longer for that wonderful taste.

I cut the persimmon up so that I could share, and handed out pieces around the office. One co-worker claimed that I was trying to poison him and spit the piece out in disgust, running to the kitchen to get some water. Confused, I took a bite. For a moment, that remembered sweetness. Then, an odd numbness and dryness, despite the juice that was glistening on the pieces. The numbness didn’t go away.

One co-worker, more familiar with the fruit than me, declared that it needed a couple more days to ripen, it hadn’t been ready yet. She said that that numb, dry texture was normal for the soft persimmons – when they aren’t ripe yet.

I’ve never experienced such a thing before! Unripe fruit is usually just less sweet, sometimes a bit woody. This fruit seemed to be fighting me back. It was such an unusual sensation, that I kept nibbling more and more pieces. I didn’t enjoy the feeling so much as was fascinated by it. So strange! Dentists should require their clients to eat a small piece before a visit.

Lesson learned: Persimmons must be squishy-soft before eating. They should feel ready to burst from the skin. Unless you want a really unusual sensation.

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~ by Liz on November 16, 2007.

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