Sunday, November 3, 2013

Fruit AND Veggie of the Month: Fuyu persimmon and delicata squash

For November, we have a special two-for-one deal: a Fruit AND a Veggie of the Month. We happened to come into possession of both a fruit and a vegetable that we'd never tried before at roughly the same time, so on the principle of "waste not, want not," I opted to blog about them both.

A couple of weeks ago, Brian brought home a couple of curious, orangish fruits from work. He said these were persimmons that one of his coworkers had brought in to the office, and if we liked them, this same coworker had lots more to get rid of. Having no familiarity with persimmons or how to eat them, I went to Google and quickly discovered that there are two kinds of persimmons. Hachiya, or baking persimmons, are long and oval-shaped, extremely tart if they're not fully ripe, and slushy-soft once they ripen. What we had, by contrast, was Fuyu persimmons, which are squat-shaped and firm, with a little cap of leaves on top. The ones Brian had brought home were still a pale yellowy-orange, and the article said they're best when they're "more orange than yellow," so we left them out at room temperature until they'd darkened to a rich orange-red, as you see here.

Today, I decided they were ready, so I simply cut one into quarters and ate it raw. Unfortunately, I forgot the site's advice to peel them first; the skin turns out to be edible, but rather tough. The flesh, however, was very sweet and juicy. The site described its flavor as mild and pumpkin-like, but I found it more similar to a very ripe pear. It had no discernible tartness, so using it in baking would probably require cutting way down on the sugar in the recipe—but then, I guess that's a good thing if you're looking to reduce your sugar use. I also did a little searching around and found that persimmons work well in a variety of savory dishes, from salsa to spinach salad to risotto. Since we've got only one left to play with, however, I'll probably just go for something simple, like adding it to a bowl of oatmeal. But if his coworker still has more to give away, I'll happily take some to try in some of the more complicated recipes.

As for the veggie, after last month's disappointment with the Sweet Dumpling squash, I was keeping my eyes peeled for the delicata squash that I started out looking for. On our last visit to the Whole Earth Center in Princeton, I found a large bin filled with assorted winter squash that had a picture on the front with labels to show what they all were. The picture included a delicata squash that looked like the ones I'd seen online, but I couldn't find any actual squash in the bin that exactly matched the picture. There were some that appeared to be the right size and shape, but they were pale yellow with darker yellow stripes, rather than the green stripes shown on the picture. Not wanting to risk another disappointment, we checked with a store employee unloading produce, who confirmed that these were indeed delicata squash. Satisfied, we selected a small one and popped it in our basket.

Unfortunately, the way I'd hoped to prepare these was by slicing and roasting them, as described here, and that takes at least half an hour at a fairly high oven temperature. Thus, the squash didn't really fit into any of the meals we had planned for the rest of the week, so we didn't get a chance to try it until tonight. And the result, was, frankly, not really worth the wait. There was nothing wrong with the flavor or texture of the delicata squash, but it didn't seem in any way superior to butternut, and Brian didn't really find it any easier to work with, either. Its only real advantage over other winter squashes is that it doesn't need to be peeled—but given that my favorite winter squash recipes are soufflĂ© and the lasagna we had on Friday, neither of which would use the peel anyway, that isn't much of an advantage for us. So while we might pick up delicata squash again sometime if we find a particularly good deal on it, I don't think we'll be devoting any of our precious garden space to it, especially now that we seem to have the hang of growing butternuts.
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