Food Box

A shopper at the Maui Swap Meet considers locally grown persimmons, now in season.
Image: WANDA A. ADAMS

Pucker up

It’s fall, and persimmons are here

Persimmon. Does the name give your mouth a pucker feel? Or perhaps no response at all?

It may be because, among the many fruits that grow well in the Islands’ upper elevations, persimmons are among the least known. But any serious foodie would be eager to make their acquaintance: the amber to orange color is inviting, the flesh is smooth-textured, the slight acidity makes you think of the many things you could do with it: fresh chutneys, mixed fruit salads, desserts.

Each year at Maui’s Hashimoto Farm right about now, the 500 trees–some almost 100 years old–throw out blazing leaves, so that this bit of Kula suddenly looks like New England in fall.

The three varieties of persimmons that the Hashimoto family brought here more than four generations ago cluster so thickly on the trees that the branches must be buttressed with wood trusses or they will break, says farmer Clark Hashimoto.

Hashimoto offers a group of visiting chefs a taste and lets them make their own decisions, but it’s clear he prefers the homeliest of the bunch: the Maru, for its brown sugary sweetness. The Fuyu is the movie star; it’s satin-smooth skin glowing. The larger Hatchiya has the softest texture.

This, the largest persimmon farm in the state, produces more than 40,000 pounds of persimmons a year (the larger trees yield 200 fruits apiece), mostly for the fresh market.

A family friend operates a small “value-added” business, turning Jackie Hashimoto’s recipes for preserves and dressings and syrups into saleable items. But most of these never make it off the farm, located on Pulehuiki Road at about 3,000 feet elevation.

Most go to folks who flock to the farm during season–particularly people of Asian backgrounds. The rest sell through farmers’ markets or the larger distribution company of Armstrong Produce. The fruit is just about at its peak now, though they’ll be picking into Christmas; prices vary from $1.70 to about $2.90 a pound, depending on where you shop.

Raising persimmons, which now involves three generations of Hashimotos, is arduous business. Besides needing to truss the trees, each of the fruit’s sharp, star-shaped stem ends must be rimmed, lest sharp points puncture the meat and allow the fruit to spoil. And the fruit must be exposed to a quick treatment with dry ice, to leach out the bitterness.

By January, the round care begins again, pruning away the dead growth; the leaves having all fallen.

Find out more at [HashimotoPersimmons.com]; for farm hours, call (808) 878-7461.