Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Inconvenience foods

It's peak season for my two favourite inconvenience foods – persimmons and quinces. 'Inconvenience' foods? Yep. These babies aren't quick and easy to eat. You have to earn them, you have to wait and, best of all, they're available for just a few months every year. After the season is over, you have to be patient... and wait ... until next year. I like that!

This dome-shaped person is an astringent persimmon. Should you foolishly attempt to eat this thing while firm and unripe, I have been told your mouth will pucker instantly with the bitterness, and stay puckered for ages. And you'll never do that again, either. Fortunately for me I was forewarned and I did what everyone should do: I waited until it softened, and softened some more, then finally arrived at the "I'm about to disintegrate with softness" stage. Then it's ready to eat. It's my favourite breakfast during its season of autumn and early winter. I like to think of it in an anti-marketing way as "Cereal with Disintegrated Inconvenience Food Collapsed over the Top". Catchy name? Yummy, I say.

On the left is the astringent persimmon, the one with the dome, and on the right is the modern convenience food type of persimmon, the non-astringent type, the flatter one, also known as Fuji, Kaki and various other names. The non-astringent types are much more sensible things. You can eat them crisp like an apple or let them ripen until softer and eat them, say, like a ripe pear. They're nice, and they are of course much more popular than the highly inconvenient astringent persimmon. But I like the weirdo on the left more because, in the end, it wins the big prize: it tastes better.

As this is a gardening blog most of the time, I should pause for a moment to say that no, I am not about to tell you how I grow persimmons here, because I don't. I could keep a persimmon tree alive here, sure, and collect some fruit each year, but I don't think it wouldn't be a completely happy person. Persimmons like a mildly chilly winter as a part of their fruit-making cycle, and the mild, coastal part of Sydney where I live can't supply that. My area is also just a touch too warm for raising successful crops of my other favourite fruits such as apples, nashi pears and quinces, so I don't bother growing them, either. And so I content myself with letting other people in the right climates grow quality crops of the fruits I love, and I'm happy just to buy some, to keep them in business doing what they do so well.
Edit: not long after posting this here today, Lanie at Edible Urban Garden, who lives just 5km from me, did a posting on her beautiful persimmon crop, so what do I know about growing persimmons! Check our her blog!

Did I just mention quinces? My other favourite inconvenience food. They're in season now, and I love them as much as I love persimmons.

Bought this one yesterday, and it's wonderfully inconvenient too. And seasonal as well. When fruits are available for just a few months each year they remain special. As soon as the modern world decrees that the spoilt child known as the average consumer simply insists on having their favourite fruit for 365 days a year, then the poor fruit loses some of its charisma. Absence does make the heart fonder for fruit. Such a thrill to see the first quince of the season each year, and to know what lies ahead for the next few months.

I love this part of quinces, the soft downy bloom which appears on the skin. It's harmless and rubs off or washes off (or disappears in the peelings anyway) but I have seen people in shops almost recoil in horror when they discover that there is "something" on that fruit! So many modern fruit shops, with their gleaming over-polished apples and art-directed displays of coordinated colours, are almost sanitised in their drive for visual perfection. And then over to the side, away from the main show, there are the quince trays, fluffy with down and looking like a bunch of unshaven hobos needing a wash. Often I think they're the only truly natural looking thing left in some modern fruit shops.

As soon as I finish writing this blog this little quince is going to be peeled, cut into chunks, sprinkled with sugar, sloshed with water and tossed into a covered small baking dish, along with a cinnamon stick, to slowly turn bright, bright red and become yet another cool season breakfast treat. It takes three or four hours for the flesh to change from the original off-white to this wonderful colour, and while that happens the house fills with the aroma of the quinces meeting the spice of the cinnamon. It might take a while, but the inconvenience is always worth it.


Life In A Pink Fibro said...

Love this! I'm a fan of inconvenience foods too. :-)

hearts_in_asia said...

I love this too! I need a 'like' button (for the lazy blogger, ha!)
You may remember I planted a Fuyu persimmon a few weeks ago? Well, after thinking and thinking it over, I've ordered an astrigent Nightingale type to plant as well.

Jamie said...

Great idea planting both types of persimmon. If I was in the right spot I'd do exactly the same (and besides, aren't they pretty in autumn!)

Lani said...

I'd love to plant both types too! Inconvenience foods - a neat adjunct to slow food. I am pleasantly surprised that the persimmon is fruiting too. I read that Fuyu is quite hardy and happier in warmer climates, so thought I'd give it a go. Bit early to gloat though - it's only 3 years old. Thanks for the generous (and amusing) post.

Sue O said...

Ha! I wrote a post on persimmons a while ago. There are a few factoids you might find interesting and even bizarre. http://nostalgic-nana.blogspot.com/2009/12/fearful-symmetry.html
I've never had a quince, but now I want one!

Mac_fromAustralia said...

"Cereal with Disintegrated Inconvenience Food Collapsed over the Top" - love it!!!!! I actually want to try it now, unlike all the stuff they advertise on tv which I am getting just more and more cynical about.

Chartreuse said...

Pardon my ignorance, but did you then bake that dish full of persimmons? And if so, at what kind of temperature and for how long?

Jamie said...

Chartreuse, no I didn't cook the persimmons at all. Both types (astringent and non-astingent) are eaten fresh and uncooked, but I suppose you might be able to cook with them.
The 'cooking' photo at the bottom of the blog is of the quinces: for them, 3-4 hours at a very slow 110°C in a covered casserole, with water and sugar added, will turn them that nice red colour.

Alexa said...

After all these posts about persimmons, I finally bought and ate my very first one! The taste really surprised me; it's very delicate, like a vanilla custard with a hint of cinnamon. Quite pleasant, and you just can't beat that coour!

Bel said...

Yum! My sister in law bakes them in the oven drizzled with honey & serves them with cream. AMAZING!