Cultivated in China over 2000 years ago – and one of the first fruit trees cultivated by man – the persimmon arrived in Europe via France in the 19th century but only as an ornamental plant. Italy’s first persimmon was planted in Florence’s Boboli gardens in 1871.
As the soft-skinned persimmons ripen quickly and are not easily stored, those with kaki trees give generously of the abundance. Peppa’s son Leonello has always happily given me their persimmon surplus – for my holiday persimmon nut bread loaves (the result of a bit of playing with a banana nut bread recipe – see below).
But not this year: “Leonello non ha kaki quest’anno,” a sad-faced Peppa told me the other day. I’ve been on the “persimmon hunt” throughout November and it seems that like Leonello’s trees, most are nearly bare and the few persimmons are often wormy and plop to the ground before ripening.
…and when I recently stopped to check on a persimmon tree near the Basilica di Santa Chiara, I could barely spot any orange fruit. It’s generally laden. (Can you find the persimmons in this picture? Look to there right.)
Persimmon Nut Bread (2 loaves)
If the persimmons are not fully ripe, putting them in a paper bag with an apple or pear does the trick. And after all, persimmon nut bread seems an idyllic demise for the kaki whose scientific name “diospyros”means “bread of the gods”
(*Note: I never use the same spices twice when making this nut bread! You, too, may enjoy experimenting….)
2 c flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 c sunflower seed oil or peanut oil – or olive oil!
1 c. white sugar
1 c brown sugar
2 c of mashed very ripe persimmons (fine to leave skins on)
2 eggs, beaten
1 c nuts – can be slivered almonds, chopped hazelnuts, chopped pecans or chopped walnuts (or a combination of all or any)
1- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 t cloves
(or use about 1 1/2 allspice instead of cloves and cinnamon)
a dash of ginger if you wish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour 2 loaf pans (9×5) or line pans with waxed paper and then rub with the cooking oil.
Sift flour and first three ingredients in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together the oil and sugar until well amalgamated. Stir in the beaten eggs, then the persimmons (mashed with a fork – or even squeezed with your hands!). Add spices. Mix by hand and then fold in nuts (a few currants or raisins, too, if you wish). Add the persimmon mixture to the dry mixture and stir only until blended. Divide batter evenly into the two loaf pans and bake for 60 mins approx or until a knife inserted into the loaf comes out clean. Let cool in pans and then turn out.
…and buon appetito!