Kitchen Hint of the Day!

November 29, 2013 at 10:49 AM | Posted in Kitchen Hints | Leave a comment
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If you bought a whole bunch of avocados for your guacamole and one or two are still not ripe enough to use, try this tip – which isn’t ideal, but will do the trick. Prick the skin of the unripe avocado in several places, then microwave it on high for 40-70 seconds, flipping it over halfway through. This won’t ripen the avocado, but it will soften enough that you’ll be able to mash it with ripe avocados and your guests won’t notice the difference.

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Fall Harvest: Persimmon

October 11, 2013 at 8:53 AM | Posted in fruits | 1 Comment
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Persimmons are available for a short window in the fall and early winter – look for bright, heavy-feeling fruits.

A branch heavily laden with persimmons

A branch heavily laden with persimmons

Persimmons are the edible fruit of a number of species of trees in the genus Diospyros. Diospyros is in the family Ebenaceae. In color the ripe fruit of the cultivated strains range from light yellow-orange to dark red-orange depending on the species and variety. They similarly vary in size from 1.5 to 9 cm (0.5 to 4 in) in diameter, and in shape the varieties may be spherical, acorn-, or pumpkin-shaped. The calyx generally remains attached to the fruit after harvesting, but becomes easy to remove once the fruit is ripe. The ripe fruit has a high glucose content. The protein content is low, but it has a balanced protein profile. Persimmon fruits have been put to various medicinal and chemical uses.
Like the tomato, persimmons are not popularly considered to be berries, but in terms of botanical morphology the fruit is in fact a berry.

Commercially and in general, there are two types of persimmon fruit: astringent and non-astringent.
The heart-shaped Hachiya is the most common variety of astringent persimmon. Astringent persimmons contain very high levels of soluble tannins and are unpalatably astringent (or “furry” tasting) if eaten before completely softened. However, the sweet, delicate flavor of fully ripened persimmons of varieties that are astringent when unripe, is particularly relished. The astringency of tannins is removed in various ways. Examples include ripening by exposure to light for several days, and wrapping the fruit in paper (probably because this increases the ethylene concentration of the surrounding air). Ethylene ripening can be increased in reliability and evenness, and the process can be greatly accelerated, by adding ethylene gas to the atmosphere in which the fruit are stored. For domestic purposes the most convenient and effective process is to store the ripening persimmons in a clean, dry container together with other varieties of fruit that give off particularly large quantities of ethylene while they are ripening; apples and related fruits such as pears are effective, and so are bananas and several others. Other chemicals are used commercially in artificially ripening persimmons or delaying their ripening. Examples include alcohol and carbon dioxide which change tannin into the insoluble form. Such bletting processes sometimes are jumpstarted by exposing the fruit to cold or frost. The resultant cell damage stimulates the release of ethylene, which promotes cellular wall breakdown.

One traditional misconception is that persimmons are to be ripened till rotten. This is a confusion of the processes of controlled ripening with the processes of decay, possibly arising from problems of translation from Asiatic languages onto English. Rotting is the action of microorganisms such as fungi, and rotting persimmons are no better than any other rotting fruit. Sound persimmons should be ripened till they are fully soft, except that the carpels still might be softly chewy. At that stage the skin might be splitting and the calyx can easily be plucked out of the fruit before serving, which often is a good sign that the soft fruit is ready to eat.
Astringent varieties of persimmons also can be prepared for commercial purposes by drying. Tanenashi fruit will occasionally contain a seed or two, which can be planted and will yield a larger more vertical tree than when merely grafted onto the D. virginiana rootstock most commonly used in the U.S. Such seedling trees may produce fruit that bears more seeds, usually 6 to 8 per fruit, and the fruit itself may vary slightly from the parent tree. Seedlings are said to be more susceptible to root nematodes.
The non-astringent persimmon is squat like a tomato and is most commonly sold as fuyu. Non-astringent persimmons are not actually free of tannins as the term suggests, but rather are far less astringent before ripening, and lose more of their tannic quality sooner. Non-astringent persimmons may be consumed when still very firm, and remain edible when very soft.
There is a third type, less commonly available, the pollination-variant non-astringent persimmons. When fully pollinated, the flesh of these fruit is brown inside—known as goma in Japan—and the fruit can be eaten firm. These varieties are highly sought after and can be found at specialty markets or farmers markets only. Tsurunoko, sold as “chocolate persimmon” for its dark brown flesh, Maru, sold as “cinnamon persimmon” for its spicy flavor, and Hyakume, sold as “brown sugar” are the three best known.
Before ripening, persimmons usually have a “chalky” taste or bitter taste.

A ripe hachiya persimmon fruit

A ripe hachiya persimmon fruit

Persimmons are eaten fresh, dried, raw, or cooked. When eaten fresh they are usually eaten whole like an apple or cut into quarters, though with some varieties it is best to peel the skin first. One way to consume very ripe persimmons, which can have the texture of pudding, is to remove the top leaf with a paring knife and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Riper persimmons can also be eaten by removing the top leaf, breaking the fruit in half and eating from the inside out. The flesh ranges from firm to mushy, and the texture is unique. The flesh is very sweet and when firm due to being unripe, possesses an apple-like crunch. American persimmons and diospyros digyna are completely inedible until they are fully ripe.
In China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam after harvesting, ‘Hachiya’ persimmons are prepared using traditional hand-drying techniques, outdoors for two to three weeks. The fruit is then further dried by exposure to heat over several days before being shipped to market.

In Korea, dried persimmon fruits are used to make the traditional Korean spicy punch, sujeonggwa, while the matured, fermented fruit is used to make a persimmon vinegar called gamsikcho (감식초). The hoshigaki tradition traveled to California with Japanese American immigrants.
In Taiwan, fruits of astringent varieties are sealed in jars filled with limewater to get rid of bitterness. Slightly hardened in the process, they are sold under the name “crisp persimmon” (cuishi 脆柿) or “water persimmon” (shuishizi 水柿子). Preparation time is dependent upon temperature (5 to 7 days at 25–28 °C (77–82 °F)). In some areas of Manchuria and Korea, the dried leaves of the fruit are used for making tea. The Korean name for this tea is ghamnip cha (감잎차).
In the state of Indiana (US), persimmons are harvested and used in a variety of dessert dishes most notably pies. It can be used in cookies, cakes, puddings, salads, curries and as a topping for breakfast cereal. Persimmon pudding is a dessert using fresh persimmons. An annual persimmon festival, featuring a persimmon pudding contest, is held every September in Mitchell, Indiana. Persimmon pudding is a baked pudding that has the consistency of pumpkin pie but resembles a brownie and is almost always topped with whipped cream. Persimmons may be stored at room temperature 20 °C (68 °F) where they will continue to ripen. In northern China, unripe persimmons are frozen outside during winter to speed up the ripening process.

Compared to apples, persimmons have higher levels of dietary fiber, sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron and manganese, but lower levels of copper and zinc. They also contain vitamin C and provitamin A beta-carotene (Nutrient table, right).
Persimmon fruits contain phytochemicals, such as catechin and gallocatechin, as well as compounds under preliminary research for potential anti-cancer activity, such as betulinic acid. In one study, a diet supplemented with dried, powdered triumph persimmons improved lipid metabolism in laboratory rats.

Fruit of the Week – Custard Apple

December 12, 2011 at 1:40 PM | Posted in baking, Food, fruits | 1 Comment
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The custard-apple, also called bullock’s heart or bull’s heart, is the fruit of the tree Annona reticulata. This tree is a small deciduous or semi-evergreen tree sometimes reaching 33 ft tall and a native of the tropical New World that prefers low elevations, and a warm,

Cross Section of Custard Apple

humid climate. It also occurs as feral populations in many parts of the world including Southeast Asia, Taiwan, India, Australia, and Africa.

The fruits are variable in shape, oblong, or irregular. The size ranges from 2.8 in to 4.7 in. When ripe, the fruit is brown or yellowish, with red highlights and a varying degree of reticulation, depending on variety. The flavor is sweet and pleasant, akin to the taste of ‘traditional’ custard.

The custard apple is believed to be a native of the West Indies but it was carried in early times through Central America to southern Mexico. It has long been cultivated and naturalized as far south as Peru and Brazil. It is commonly grown in the Bahamas and occasionally in Bermuda and southern Florida.

Apparently it was introduced into tropical Africa early in the 17th century and it is grown in South Africa as a dooryard fruit tree. In India the tree is cultivated, especially around Calcutta, and runs wild in many areas. It has become fairly common on the east coast of Malaya, and more or less throughout southeast Asia and the Philippines though nowhere particularly esteemed. Eighty years ago it was reported as thoroughly naturalized in Guam. In Hawaii it is not well known.

The custard apple tree needs a tropical climate but with cooler winters than those of the west coast of Malaya. It flourishes in the coastal lowlands of Ecuador; is rare above 5,000 ft (1,500 m). In Guatemala, it is nearly always found below 4,000 ft (1,220 m). In India, it does well from the plains up to an elevation of 4,000 ft (1,220 m); in Ceylon, it cannot be grown above 3,000 ft (915 m). Around Luzon in the Philippines, it is common below 2,600 ft (800 m). It is too tender for California and trees introduced into

custard apple

Palestine succumbed to the cold. In southem Florida the leaves are shed at the first onset of cold weather and the tree is dormant all winter. Fully grown, it has survived temperatures of 27º to 28ºF (-2.78º to 2.22ºC) without serious harm. This species is less drought-tolerant than the sugar apple and prefers a more humid atmosphere.

The custard apple has the advantage of cropping in late winter and spring when the preferred members of the genus are not in season. It is picked when it has lost all green color and ripens without splitting so that it is readily sold in local markets. If picked green, it will not color well and will be of inferior quality. The tree is naturally a fairly heavy bearer. With adequate care, a mature tree will produce 75 to 100 lbs (34-45 kg) of fruits per year. The short twigs are shed after they have borne flowers and fruits.

In India, the fruit is eaten only by the lower classes, out-of-hand. In Central America, Mexico and the West Indies, the fruit is appreciated by all. When fully ripe it is soft to the touch and the stem and attached core can be easily pulled out. The flesh may be scooped from the skin and eaten as is or served with light cream and a sprinkling of sugar. Often it is pressed through a sieve and added to milk shakes, custards or ice cream.

The leaves have been employed in tanning and they yield a blue or black dye. A fiber derived from the young twigs is superior to the bark fiber from Annona squamosa. Custard apple wood is yellow, rather soft, fibrous but durable, moderately close-grained, with a specific gravity of 0.650. It has been used to make yokes for oxen.

The leaf decoction is given as a vermifuge. Crushed leaves or a paste of the flesh may be poulticed on boils, abscesses and ulcers. The unripe fruit is rich in tannin; is dried, pulverized and employed against diarrhea and dysentery. The bark is very astringent and the decoction is taken as a tonic and also as a remedy for diarrhea and dysentery. In severe cases, the leaves, bark and green fruits are all boiled together for 5 minutes in a liter of water to make an exceedingly potent decoction. Fragments of the root bark are packed around the gums to relieve toothache. The root decoction is taken as a febrifuge.

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