Have You Tried An Amagaki Lately?
Native to China, with the botanical name “diaspyros”, persimmons are loading local trees this time of year. You might ask how they could be the “Fruit of the Gods” (Greek translation for diaspyros). However, if you’re one who has experienced a luscious, very ripe Hachiya persimmon blissfully gliding over your palate, you know how. Or you could be a fan of Fuya persimmons, the less sweet and crispier variety. But please, let me introduce you to another persimmon that I find superior!
The Amagaki is truly amazing. Not quite as succulent and velvety as the Hachiya, its flesh is crisper (similar to the Fuya but juicier) with a sweet and cinnamony flavor that finishes teasing of nutmeg.
More yellow than red-orange, when I first saw one, I wondered if it was an abnormal Fuya or Hachiya with a birth defect. The flesh contains brownish filaments, don’t worry, they’re a normal component and they are your prize!
According to Carol Iwasaki of Twin Peaks Orchards, Twin Peaks is the only farm in California that grows the true Hykume persimmon variety. (OK, throwing another new name at you!) The Hykume is similar to the Hachiya in that it can’t be eaten raw; you have to wait until it is very, very ripe due to its bitterness.
Carol explained her dad took over the farm when he was 13 due to the death of his father. They’d been growing Hykume persimmons for 50 to 60 years at that point and experimenting with a curing process to allow earlier eating of the variety. He came up with a special curing procedure that made it possible to eat Hykumes after 10 days. When he bit into the Hykume, it was so juicy and sweet, he changed the name to Amagaki (Japanese translation is “sweet persimmon”). Five different families, all descendents of Carol’s father, still own and operate this Newcastle farm today.
Twin Peaks grows a large quantity of Amagaki and sells them to larger produce dealers. One in particular calls them cinnamon persimmons and sells them as such.
I hope you’ll taste an Amagaki while in season! You can find a big table of them at Whole Foods Market on Arden Way (they are being sampled) and also at the Twin Peaks booth at the Sunday morning Sacramento Farmer’s Market. I’m off to make an Amagaki Tart for Thanksgiving dessert. Happy persimmon eating!