If you’re lucky enough to be in Provence between October and January you will probably catch sight of a bare-leafed tree hung with bright orange globes. These fruit are about the shape and size of oranges and very festive they look too. But they aren’t oranges, they’re persimmons, or kakis as they’re known here: a wonderful and healthy winter fruit.
Smooth-skinned and ranging in colour from orange to deep red, persimmons are an exotic fruit from Asia and not native to France, but much prized by connoisseurs here.
Persimmons are ripe when they are so soft that the skin is almost translucent and liable to squish in your hand as you pick them. In this state they are very fragile so it is unlikely you will be able to buy them fully ripe in a shop or market – you can ripen them in a warm room or in a paper bag with some apples.
And they must be perfectly ripe (and squishy!) when you try them, so for ones you have bought you will need to wait a few days before cutting them in half and scooping out the sweet flesh with a spoon. That’s really the only way to eat a ripe persimmon without making a mess.
What do persimmons taste like? They have a unique flavour, it’s a reach to describe them as like another fruit, but some people find similarities with pumpkin, pear or mango, with a hint of cinnamon. They are simply unlike any other fruit.
What’s more, persimmons are super-healthy, with high levels of beta carotene, sodium, magnesium, calcium and iron, as well as having twice as much dietary fibre as apples. They are also rich in vitamins A and C. So try a persimmon in Provence – a healthy and delicious winter treat.