Sunday, November 4, 2012

Persimmons as Art

Six Persimmons

Six Persimmons is a 13th century Chinese painting by the monk, Mu Qi (Mu Ch'i), the painter better known in China as Fa-Chang. Mu Qi was one of the two great exponents of the spontaneous mode of Chinese painting (the other being Liang Kai). It features six persimmons floating on an undefined, but skillfully mottled background. It is painted in blue-black ink on paper.
The painting became famous for the tremendous skill of the brushstrokes. Their subtlety of modeling is often remarked upon. The thick and thin brushstrokes that model the lightest of the persimmons make it seem to float in contrast to the dark one next to it. The treatment of the stems and leaves recall Chinese characters, and reveal brush control at its highest level. It currently resides in the Daitoku-ji in Kyoto, Japan.

The Persimmon has always been somewhat of a mystery to me. They have grown on our property for as long as I can remember, but we never “did anything” with them.

This was in such contrast to my mother and grandmother’s policy of never letting ANY food product go to waste.

Is it because the Persimmon is extremely bitter and inedible until fully ripe? We were always told frost had to hit before the fruit became sweet. Or because there is such a narrow window of opportunity to deal with the Persimmon, as it quickly becomes mushy?

After reading up, I found that the American Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) is native to the eastern United States. There are several varieties, including theJapanese Persimmon. I learned that in some countries, even in other locales of the U.S., they are quite popular and can to be found in the markets. But not where I live; I suppose we take the common old Persimmon quite for granted.

It has traditionally been thought of as food to be enjoyed by the opossum.

Through reading recipe books and food columns, I have learned that the Persimmon is also known as the Medlar in United Kingdom and elsewhere. Are they really one and the same? Perhaps readers who know could enlighten me.

Persimmons also have medicinal and chemical uses, and the wood from the tree is used in furniture construction (sometimes as a substitute for ebony, as it belongs to the same family of trees).

Here are a few photos of the Persimmon tree at the edge of our driveway, as well as close-up photos of the fruits. I tasted one and it was quite good. There is fruit to be had from the tree, but who’s going to climb up to get them? Not me. And I’m afraid their fall to the ground could bruise them too much for use.

Realistically I know I have no interest in investing my  time to gather and prepare these Persimmons!  But seeing them today against the blue November sky made them look so appealing that I thought you, like me, would like to know a bit more about this odd fruit.

The Persimmon tree is now void of leaves and it's easy to see the fruit. Credit:

The Persimmons look pretty against the blue November sky and wispy white clouds. Credit:

There were many persimmons on the ground, but most were bruised and mushy from their fall to the ground.

My version of an "artsy" arrangement of the berries with a Sycamore leaf as background.

Traditional Significance and Folklore Related to the Persimmon (source:
  • In the Ozark Mountain region of the U.S. (roughly Arkansas, Missouri), the severity of the upcoming winter is said to be predictable by slicing a persimmon and observing the cutlery-shaped formation within it. (This is a myth with no bearing on weather forecasting).] The folklore about the seed says that a spoon means snow, a fork is a milder winter and a knife is a cold and biting winter.
  • In Vietnam, the fruit is a part of Mid-Autumn Festival offering.  
  •   In traditional Chinese medicine the fruit is thought to regulate ch'i.
  •   The raw fruit is used to treat constipation and hemorrhoids and to stop bleeding. Over-consumption can induce diarrhea, but the cooked fruit is used to treat diarrhea and dysentery; the opposing effects of the raw and cooked fruit are due to its osmotic effect in the raw fruit sugar (causing diarrhea), and the high tannin content of the cooked fruit helping with diarrhea.
·         In philosophy, the painting of persimmons by Mu Qi (see above) exemplifies the progression from youth to age as a symbol of the progression from bitterness to sweetness. The persimmon when young is bitter and inedible, but as it ages it becomes sweet and beneficial to humankind. Thus, as we age, we overcome rigidity and prejudice and attain compassion and sweetness. Mu Qi's painting of Six Persimmons is considered a masterpiece.

Have you ever tasted a Persimmon? If so, what did you think?


  1. Hi Sanda, I have tasted persimmon a few times but I think its best attribute is its colour! As you say it is difficult to catch them when nicely ripe, and I can remember the odd and bitter taste of a less than perfect fruit. Now I see the height of their trees, it is no wonder they are not often harvested and eaten. An interesting post, thankyou.

    1. It would be far too much trouble to try and harvest them! I love their color, too!

  2. Persimmons are grown in CA, not in our garden though. There are two types, Fuyu which can be eaten raw and Hachiya that are usually cooked. I usually get them mixed up in the market so don't buy them often.

    Really like the drawing.


    1. The ones grown commercially are no doubt different from this wild one. Some things, such as the persimmon, are just to complicated to eat.

  3. Hello there Sanda. I have seen them in the markets here in Provence but I have never tried them...this post made me curious to do so.

    And I also wanted to thank you for your heart felt response over at my place--I agree with you 100%!!

    1. Be sure and let me know what you think of the persimmon should you try them. Let us see what tomorrow brings. The great thing about this country is, throughout its history, we've always pulled together to solve problems for the good of the people. However, with the current inability of our leaders to work together, I am very worried about the future.

  4. I now know much about something, I never knew even existed, wow!
    Btw, quote " as we age, we overcome rigidity and prejudice and attain compassion and sweetness" !
    Do you agree?
    I have severe doubts about this one ; )!

    1. That quote gave me pause. I pondered on it, but finally decided I didn't know if I agreed or not. I do think we mellow with age, but wonder if the "sweetness" was used only to fit into the persimmon's condition as it ages. I wish to be compassionate and wise as I age, but not necessarily sweet!

  5. When I was growing up we could only buy the one type of Persimmon - the Hachiya, which is shaped a little like a Bell Pepper. You don't eat them until they are ripe, not even to cook with. If you compare the feel of the ripe fruit to that of a ripe avocado, the Persimmon should be just a little softer. At this point, you can puree the raw, peeled fruit and freeze to cook with later. Our family always made something called Persimmon Pudding for Winter holidays. (It is steamed and Martha Stewart has a good recipe.) If I was very lucky, there would be extra ones to peel and eat raw, like some giant orange strawberry. Not everyone likes the slightly slimy (or perhaps gelatinous is a better description) texture, but I do.
    A few years ago (maybe 20?)the other type, the Fuyu Persimmon came on the American market. It is shaped like an apple and can be eaten like one while it is still crisp. They are also delicious, but I prefer a ripe Hachiya. I've cooked with the Fuyu, but needed to grate it - and the flavor wasn't as intense.


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