Birds and beasts are not the only creatures that migrate. Take pens and pencils - they move around the home mysteriously. Erasers are particularly cunning in their ability not to be where you last put them.
Also, fruit. The produce section of any decent market is a stopover for many kinds of fruit, coming and going, and the pattern changes subtly. A few years ago, mandarins would arrive early in December, and leave sometime in the New Year; now they are with us virtually year-round. And right now I am waiting impatiently for the arrival of the first Ambrosia apples, which are well overdue. When, oh when, will those sweet and crunchy red and yellow beauties reach our island?
In their place an unfamiliar migratory fruit has dropped by. It is so rarely seen that the management of a local store felt it necessary to prepare a sign telling us that they are persimmons, and that they are good to eat.
Now that the persimmons are here, I feel I should tell you something about them, so that they will feel welcome and become regular visitors.
There are two kinds of persimmon that you are likely to see in B.C. produce displays; both are the size of an Ambrosia (be still my heart!), both have a smooth orange skin and a rosette of four leaves at one end. One is called a Fuyu, its colour is dull and it is the shape of a flattened tomato. The other is called a Hachiya, its colour is as brilliant and glossy as a brand new Ferrari, and it's the shape of a very large acorn.
The tree on which these tasty fruit grow is a native of China. The two varieties were developed in Japan, hence their names. But here's an odd thing - the name "persimmon" originated with American Indians of the Algonquin tribe.
I found the explanation of this name puzzle in the Oxford Companion to Food. A relative of the Chinese persimmon is native to what is now Florida, and its fruit were eaten by the natives and eventually by the settlers. The native name was "pasiminan," which English-speaking tongues turned into "persimmon." It is a fruit of limited appeal: small, bitter with tannin, needing careful preparation. Attempts were made to improve the quality of the native fruit, but before any real progress was made the vastly superior oriental persimmons arrived in California, which is where most of the fruit we see here are grown.
Try saying "persimmon" a few times. Isn't it a lovely word? It could be the name of the heroine in a Harlequin romance - long auburn hair, flashing green eyes, swelling bosom, wildly in love with a notorious pirate, who on the last but one page reveals himself to be a Prince of the Realm working undercover.
But let's get back to the fruit.
Beautiful though they may look, all persimmons carry a curse - too much tannin. The Fuyu, which is the variety that made its way to Galiano, is almost free of tannin. Just give it a gentle squeeze; if it yields, go ahead and eat it. If it doesn't, give it a few days to ripen, then try again.
The other persimmon, the Hachiya, is the one that needs special care. When it is fully ripe, the flavour is sensational - 10 times as wonderful as the Fuyu, in my opinion. But bite it too soon and your tongue will shrivel up and your lips turn stiff as cardboard. A Hachiya is only edible when it feels as soft as a baby's cheek, almost liquid inside.
Luckily, you can control the ripeness of a persimmon. Just pop the unripe fruit into a brown paper bag with an apple, and close the bag. A Fuyu will take a few days to ripen, a Hachiya may take several weeks, but it's worth the wait.
Now, if only I had a magic bag full of Ambrosias.
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