BY PETER CHASTAIN, EXECUTIVE CHEF,
PRIMA RISTORANTE, 1522 N. MAIN, WALNUT CREEK
I didn’t eat persimmons as a child except in the form of “pudding” or cake made from Hachiyas. When I met my wife in Japan and was introduced to her grandmother, that all changed. She had a small orchard on a hill the family owns near their home in Ise. There she grew Fuyu persimmons, which were (and still are) consumed with great enthusiasm at the house. She made hoshi-gaki (dried persimmons) out of what couldn’t be eaten fresh or bartered them for other things in the neighborhood. Even well into her 90s, she made the trip up the hill daily to harvest her persimmons.
My wife’s grandmother explained to me that persimmons are actually members of the berry family-something you can understand best by looking down at the top of one. You see that the construction is the same as that of a berry. Then, when you cut into one, you can see that the seeds are situated in the same way as a berry’s, too.
I fell in love with the wonderful texture and delicate flavor when I was served peeled, quartered persimmons on a beautiful plate with elegant little forks and astringent Uji green tea. We ate them as we sat around the kotatsu, a low table, which sits on the tatami mats in the family room. A heater underneath the table kept us warm as the Fall and Winter cold kicked in. I’ve been hooked ever since.