29 November, 2008

The kaki tree.

Today we bought a tree. More than one, actually, but this particular one will bear Japanese persimmons, bright-colored globes that hang from the inception of winter onward. They say that the tree that carries the "fruit of the gods" also allows one to actually predict the kind of winter coming, simply by looking at the formations inside the seeds...Hmm. At any rate, we can't plant our first-ever kaki, as the French call it, anywhere near where the car will be: the fallen fruit ruin the finish...

It's such an Asian fruit, to my way of thinking, but you do find them scattered across the atlas. The California Fuyu (kaki) growers even have their own promotional board...what will they choose to be the catchy kaki jingle? I'll keep you posted.

The first time I ever really considered the persimmon was when I was assigned a Li-Young Lee book at school.


In sixth grade Mrs. Walker
slapped the back of my head
and made me stand in the corner
for not knowing the difference
between persimmon and precision.
How to choose

persimmons. This is precision.
Ripe ones are soft and brown-spotted.
Sniff the bottoms. The sweet one
will be fragrant. How to eat:
put the knife away, lay down newspaper.
Peel the skin tenderly, not to tear the meat.
Chew the skin, suck it,
and swallow. Now, eat
the meat of the fruit,
so sweet,
all of it, to the heart.

Donna undresses, her stomach is white.
In the yard, dewy and shivering
with crickets, we lie naked,
face-up, face-down.
I teach her Chinese.
Crickets: chiu chiu. Dew: I’ve forgotten.
Naked: I’ve forgotten.
Ni, wo: you and me.
I part her legs,
remember to tell her
she is beautiful as the moon.

Other words
that got me into trouble were
fight and fright, wren and yarn.
Fight was what I did when I was frightened,
Fright was what I felt when I was fighting.
Wrens are small, plain birds,
yarn is what one knits with.
Wrens are soft as yarn.
My mother made birds out of yarn.
I loved to watch her tie the stuff;
a bird, a rabbit, a wee man.

Mrs. Walker brought a persimmon to class
and cut it up
so everyone could taste
a Chinese apple. Knowing
it wasn’t ripe or sweet, I didn’t eat
but watched the other faces.

My mother said every persimmon has a sun
inside, something golden, glowing,
warm as my face.

Once, in the cellar, I found two wrapped in newspaper,
forgotten and not yet ripe.
I took them and set both on my bedroom windowsill,
where each morning a cardinal
sang, The sun, the sun.

Finally understanding
he was going blind,
my father sat up all one night
waiting for a song, a ghost.
I gave him the persimmons,
swelled, heavy as sadness,
and sweet as love.

This year, in the muddy lighting
of my parents’ cellar, I rummage, looking
for something I lost.
My father sits on the tired, wooden stairs,
black cane between his knees,
hand over hand, gripping the handle.
He’s so happy that I’ve come home.
I ask how his eyes are, a stupid question.
All gone, he answers.

Under some blankets, I find a box.
Inside the box I find three scrolls.
I sit beside him and untie
three paintings by my father:
Hibiscus leaf and a white flower.
Two cats preening.
Two persimmons, so full they want to drop from the cloth.

He raises both hands to touch the cloth,
asks, Which is this?

This is persimmons, Father.

Oh, the feel of the wolftail on the silk,
the strength, the tense
precision in the wrist.
I painted them hundreds of times
eyes closed. These I painted blind.
Some things never leave a person:
scent of the hair of one you love,
the texture of persimmons,
in your palm, the ripe weight.

--Li-Young Lee

...Anyone have a persimmon recipe to spare?


  1. Funny - I brought a box of persimmons into Dana's class last week for snack-day. (California grown, I'm sure.)

    But no recipe here. We ate them raw. I was very surprised - the kids loved them.

    beautiful poem.

  2. thank you for the beautiful poem.


    from Edna Lewis, In Pursuit of Flavor, pp. 265-66, 301-2

    Serves 5

    2 quarts wild or cultivated persimmons

    1 c unbleached all-purpose flour
    Pinch salt
    1/4 t almond extract
    1/4 c sugar
    6 T (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
    1 egg yolk

    Whipped cream made with 1/2 c heavy cream
    2 t sugar, and 2 t raspberry liqueur
    5 spun sugar tops

    Rinse the persimmons under cold tap water.Drain dry. Remove the caps and take out the seeds. Press the pulp through a seive into a bowl. Cover and set into the refrigerator until needed.

    Put the flour, salt, almond extract, sugar and butter in a mixing bowl.Stir the egg yolk and add it to the flour mixture. Blend well with your fingertips until the dough becomes smooth and pliable. Shape into a circle. Wrap lightly in wax paper and put it into the refrigerator for 15 or 20 minutes, until firm. Remove from the refri and roll out on a lightly dusted surface, dusting the rolling pin with flour. Roll the dough very thin; it is intended just to hold the persimmon pulp.

    Preheat the oven to 400F.

    Cut out the tart pastries to fill five 3-inch shells. Press the pastry into each tart pan, crimp the edges with a fork, and prick the surface of the pastry well to keep it from puffing up. nBake for 7 to 10 minutes, until light brown and crisp. Remove frpm the oven, cool, and store in a tin lined with wax paper until ready to use.

    Fill the shells with the chilled persimmon pulp and garnish with a thin ribbon of sweetened whipped cream flavored with raspberry liqueur. Top each tart with a spun sugar top just before serving.


    The trick to making spun sugar is to keep the melted sugar warm by setting it over very hot water, which is why it is a good idea to make it standing near the stove so that you can heat the water in the pan or keep a kettle full of simmering water to add to the pan. I don't have fancy equipment. I just take a broomstick and lay it between two chairs and then use a fork to move the strands of sugar back and forth over the broomstick....It's kind of fun to make spun sugar and in no time you have enough for a little nest.

    Makes enough for four small nests or tops.

    1 cup sugar

    Position a clean broomstick or a long rolling pin between two chairs or similar objects so that the broomstick is suspended 3 or 4 feet above the floor.

    Put the sugar in a heavy saucepan and place it over medium heat. Watch the sugar carefully and take it from the stove as soons as it melts and turns a golden amber color. Do not stir it as it melts. Set the pan in another pan of very hot, not boiling, water. Choose a fork with a good number of tines and dip it into the syrup. Raise the fork above the pan. There will be amber threads streaming from the fork. Carefully lay the threads over the stick by waving the fork back and forth above it so that the threads fall down either side. Repeat this process until you have spun enough of the sugar in this way. Gather the still warm threads together with both hands and form them into a rounded shape large enough to cover the dish you are decorating. The warm sugar is easy to bend and should not be so brittle that it breaks. Store the spun sugar in an air tight container or use it right away. You may choose to make individual nests of spun sugar to cover small tarts or other desserts.

  3. Thanks so much for the recipe, PJ! Since you are ready from the beginning forward, you may not have noticed that I am actually in California for the next ten days, and found internet access unexpectedly complicated.

    Once I get my hands on some persimmons again, I will will give your recipe a whirl, as it looks quite delicious--and fun aka messy...


Thanks for visiting my blog and joining in the conversation!

Related Posts with Thumbnails