The City Fruit team has had a busy summer, harvesting plums, figs, tomatoes, apples, pears, grapes, cherries, and crabapples from our city’s network of public and private fruit trees. With the cold autumn weather creeping in and the leaves changing around us, you might be tempted to put your fruit picker back in the shed–but wait! There are late season apple varieties that ripen in October, such as the Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Braeburn, and Liberty. But also, Seattle is home to two types of fragrant, bright fruit that ripen in October and November and provide a healthy dose of Vitamin C in the colder months.
You may have noticed what looked like brilliant orange lanterns hanging on empty branches and wondered what that was. If you’re not familiar with persimmons, then they make not only a treat for the eyes when other fruit trees have gone dormant, but they make some good frozen and baked treats, too. Persimmons ripen when many trees have long lost their leaves and fruit and after the first frost. In Seattle, you might come across varieties such as the Japanese Fuyu persimmon (Diospyros kaki), the hachiya, or the wild American persimmon (Diospyros Virginiana). Depending on the variety, some persimmons can be eaten raw when fully ripe, while others might taste a little bit better after freezing or dried or cooked because of tannins that make some varieties astringent. In fact, the word “persimmon” stems from the Algonguin word “pessamin”, translating to “dried fruit” (Maxey, 2021). North American Indigenous communities, such as the Lenape and Cree nations, not only dry the fruit, but also cook it into a pudding with cornmeal and ground nuts.
In Japan, where the persimmon is highly esteemed, non-astringent varieties (like the Fuyu) are eaten when the flesh is still firm, served in slices (Maxey, 2021). In contrast, astringent varieties (like the Wild American persimmon) are left to ripen until the skin is a rich reddish-orange color and the feel of the fruit is very soft. The flesh of the fruit is then scooped out with a spoon. We recommend trying persimmons in different preparations to see what suits your taste best, and a good place to start is with this persimmon cookie recipe.
The second of our fantastic cold weather fruits is the quince! Although quince doesn’t get nearly as much love and recognition as the apple or the pear, historically this fruit was revered for centuries throughout the Middle East and Europe (VegParadise, 2021). In fact, cultivation of quince by the Greeks between 200 and 100 BCE preceded cultivation of the apple!
If you’re not familiar with quince, its appearance when ripe resembles a knobby, golden apple. Although unripe quince has a woolly fuzz on the exterior of the fruit, the fuzz disappears as it ripens and the fruit develops a strong, rosey or pineapple fragrance that can perfume a room. When eaten raw, the white flesh of the fruit is hard, sour, and astringent. Historically (and still today), the fruit has been baked, cooked, or prepared into things like pastries, jellies, jams, marmalades, chutneys, sambals, stews, and fragrant teas (Rick, 2021; VegParadise, 2021). Cooking unleashes a sweet, complex, rose-like flavor, and many people use quince in traditional apple recipes to brighten up the taste of typical apple pie.
In addition to culinary purposes, quince was also iconized as a fruit of fertility for the Greeks, and some wedding traditions incorporated the fruit into bridal gifts, bridal foods, and bridal room adornments (VegParadise, 2021). Today, quince is becoming increasingly rare, so City Fruit is especially grateful to be able to share this unique fruit from our community’s tree owners!
Interested in growing your own persimmon or quince tree? Both types of trees grow well in a range of soils, can tolerate low temperatures, and often reliably produce high quality fruit. Or, do you have persimmon or quince trees abundantly fruiting in your backyard? If so, check out some of these additional recipes for persimmon and quince dishes! Please also contact City Fruit at firstname.lastname@example.org for help harvesting and redirecting excess fruit.
(Rick, 2021) – https://www.tytyga.com/History-Of-Quince-Trees-a/376.htm
(VegParadise, 2021) https://vegparadise.com/highestperch51.html
Persimmon recipes – https://californiagrown.org/blog/perfect-uses-for-persimmons/