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Sweet persimmon crisp makes most of crisp Fuyus

Persimmon crisp makes use of Fuyu persimmons in their just-picked crisp stage. (Photos: Debbie Arrington)

Recipe: December is peak season for this unusual fruit

Fuyu persimmons -- those flat, fat cousins to pointy Hachiyas -- are easy to love.

Crisp and crunchy or soft as custard, Fuyus can be eaten right off the tree or weeks later. Think of them as bright orange-fleshed apples, but with a very different flavor.

Ideally suited to Sacramento's climate, Fuyus grow on an attractive small tree -- a member of the ebony family -- with colorful red and orange fall foliage. The shiny orange fruit are pretty as well as delicious. That makes Fuyu a good choice for edible landscaping.

Fuyu persimmons are a much more versatile fruit than Hachiyas, which can be eaten only when their tannin-packed pulp turns to jelly. (That neutralizes their pucker power.)
Fuyus can be eaten when crisp
or pulpy.

Yet overwhelmingly, most persimmon recipes call for mashed pulp, not crisp sliced fruit.
I have a handsome Fuyu tree packed with fruit, which sent me searching for possibilities to cook now -- not in a few weeks after the fruit softens to pulp stage. After some experimentation, I came up with this dessert. This crisp is meant for crisp persimmons, not the ooey, gooey ones.

Besides on backyard trees, Fuyus also are in abundance at farmers markets. December is their peak season.

Fuyus taste very much like Hachiyas but without the tannin bite. It's a delicate sweetness like floral honey. Sliced and cooked, the fruit retains its bright orange color.

Like extra-juicy apples, Fuyus need some thickener such as cornstarch or tapioca to absorb that juiciness when cooked. Lemon juice helps balance out the overt honey sweetness.

Crisp persimmon crisp
Makes 8 to 12 servings

6 Fuyu persimmons, peeled and thinly sliced (about 6 cups)
Zest and juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

For topping:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 cup quick oats
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 10-inch pie plate or 9-inch square baking dish.

Toss sliced persimmons with lemon juice. In a large bowl, combine cornstarch, sugars, cinnamon and lemon zest. Add persimmon slices and mix to coat. Set aside.

Make topping. Combine brown sugar, flour and oats in a bowl. Cut in butter or margarine until crumbly mixture forms.
This may look like peach crisp, but it's made with persimmons fresh off the tree.

Transfer persimmon slices to prepared baking dish. Top with crumble mixture.

Place baking dish on top of a rimmed cookie sheet (just in case crisp bubbles over). Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes or until top is browned and juices bubbling.

Serve warm or cold with whipped cream.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of June 4:

Because of the comfortable weather, it’s not too late to set out tomato and pepper seedlings as well as squash and melon plants. They’ll appreciate this not-too-hot weather. Just remember to water.

* From seed, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, melons, squash and sunflowers.

* Plant basil to go with your tomatoes.

* Transplant summer annuals such as petunias, marigolds and zinnias.

* It’s also a good time to transplant perennial flowers including astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia, salvia and verbena.

* Let the grass grow longer. Set the mower blades high to reduce stress on your lawn during summer heat. To cut down on evaporation, water your lawn deeply during the wee hours of the morning, between 2 and 8 a.m.

* Tie up vines and stake tall plants such as gladiolus and lilies. That gives their heavy flowers some support.

* Dig and divide crowded bulbs after the tops have died down.

* Feed summer flowers with a slow-release fertilizer.

* Mulch, mulch, mulch! This “blanket” keeps moisture in the soil longer and helps your plants cope during hot weather.

* Thin grapes on the vine for bigger, better clusters later this summer.

* Cut back fruit-bearing canes on berries.

* Feed camellias, azaleas and other acid-loving plants.

* Trim off dead flowers from rose bushes to keep them blooming through the summer. Roses also benefit from deep watering and feeding now. A top dressing of aged compost will keep them happy. It feeds as well as keeps roots moist.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushier plants with many more flowers in September.

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