One to Grow On

Understanding how food production impacts us and our world

33: Persimmons Transcript

2020-04-07

Listen to the full episode.

Hallie Casey  0:00 

Hello and welcome to One To Grow On the show where we dig into questions about agriculture and try to understand how food production impacts us and our world. My name is Hallie Casey and I studied and currently work in agriculture.

Chris Casey  0:12 

And I’m Chris Casey, Hallie’s dad. Each episode we pick an area of agriculture or food production to discuss and this week we are focusing on persimmons.

Hallie Casey  0:26 

I am so excited to talk about this fruit!

Chris Casey  0:28 

Persimmons. You used to say parsimmons.

Hallie Casey  0:34 

I still say parsimmons sometimes.

Chris Casey  0:36 

Yeah, you do.

Hallie Casey  0:37 

What do you know about the persimmon, Dad?

Chris Casey  0:40 

I know there’s this guy on YouTube that’s trying to eat them and they are a fruit, judging by some pictures that I saw. Maybe they’re a berry. And that’s all I really know.

Hallie Casey  0:55 

Yes. So I posted in our One To Grow On Discord. Quick plug if you’re interested, you can go to OneToGrowOnPod.com/discord about yeah, there’s this guy who has a YouTube channel. I was subscribed to him from back in the day, a million years ago. And he kind of revitalized his channel recently to try and like persimmons, which is not as easy of a task as one may think it is.

Chris Casey  1:23 

So persimmons aren’t very likable, I’m guessing.

Hallie Casey  1:26 

So they can be likable, and we’re gonna get to that they can also be distinctively unlikable.

Chris Casey  1:31 

Alright.

Hallie Casey  1:32 

So you’re right persimmons are berries. Good job. They’re in the genus Diospyros in the family Ebenaceae which is the ebony family, which is known for the dark wood that is used in carving.

Chris Casey  1:48 

Oh, so does it have the same kind of wood?

Hallie Casey  1:50 

No.

Chris Casey  1:51 

Oh, it’s just related to a tree that has that kind of wood.

Hallie Casey  1:54 

Exactly. Yeah. There are lots of different kinds of persimmons, the most common one is Diospyros kaki or kackai? I don’t know which one it is. That’s the most commonly produced one commercially. It’s native to mainland China and parts of Japan and you can buy it most places here in the US depending on seasonality. So that’s the one that usually see you in grocery stores.

Chris Casey  2:18 

Cool.

Hallie Casey  2:19 

There’s also Diospyros Nigra, which is native to Mexico and parts of Texas. That’s the common name is the chocolate pudding fruit.

Chris Casey  2:26 

Wait, is it called that because it tastes like chocolate pudding? I feel like it would have heard of this fruit.

Hallie Casey  2:33 

It’s called that because the flesh is very dark like chocolate pudding.

Chris Casey  2:38 

Oooooh.

Hallie Casey  2:38 

It’s also called the Sapote in Spanish.

Chris Casey  2:40 

Sapote? I still haven’t heard of it.

Unknown Speaker  2:42 

Well, it’s native to our region. There’s another one that’s native to our region called Diospyros Texana.

Chris Casey  2:47 

Okay.

Hallie Casey  2:48 

Do you know anything about Diospyros Texana?

Chris Casey  2:50 

Is it from Texas?

Hallie Casey  2:51 

It is yeah, it is from Texas. You have eaten this persimmon.

Chris Casey  2:56 

What?!

Hallie Casey  2:57 

Yes, you have eaten Diospyros Texana.

Chris Casey  2:59 

No. Really?

Hallie Casey  3:01 

Yes they grow in the Central Texas Hill Country.

Chris Casey  3:03 

Are they agaritas?

Hallie Casey  3:04 

No they’re not.

Chris Casey  3:07 

So what is it? When have I eaten this thing?

Hallie Casey  3:10 

Probably when you were traipsing around the central Texas Hill Country. I think I ate some with you I ate some with Katherine this last summer. When we were down towards Big Ben. I made her stop and eat them because they were fruiting at the end of the summer. They don’t really look like the commercial ones. The commercial ones are big, kind of like a like a large beefsteak tomato size. These Diospyros Texana, the Texas persimmons are maybe like the size of like a large marble or like a little bit bigger than a grape. And they have like some big seeds on the inside and they are dark purple in color and they stay in your teeth and they’re pretty delicious.

Chris Casey  3:50 

Okay, but I wasn’t with you when you went to Big Bend.

Hallie Casey  3:54 

I know but I’m pretty sure that either me or Mom would have forced you to foriage some Mexican persimmons or Texas persimmons at some point.

Chris Casey  4:06 

Hmmmm… I don’t remember this but maybe.

Hallie Casey  4:08 

I bet it! I bet so.

Chris Casey  4:10 

Did Producer Katherine like the persimmon when she ate it?

Hallie Casey  4:16 

I think she did. Yeah, I mean it’s a lot of seed it’s not bread. So it’s, it’s a lot of seed. There’s not a lot else in there unfortunately. But they are often harvested to make things like puddings or breads, or you know different stuff like that.

Chris Casey  4:33 

I’ve never had persimmon pudding or persimmon bread now I’m very curious.

Hallie Casey  4:37 

I had it once in college we had a professor who likes to celebrate our final, I think like baked us some persimmon bread, and I think she made something else with like a native plant. It was really cute. Everyone should become an ag major because your professors always bring you food.

Chris Casey  4:52 

Okay, you say it was really cute, but was it delicious?

Hallie Casey  4:56 

I thought it was delicious. Yeah, it’s like it’s kind of like a like a prune and nut bread like something that’s like kind of like sticky and you put nuts on it so it’s got a little crunch to it but the persimmons themselves, the Texas ones are really kind of thick and putting a similar to the sapote.

Chris Casey  5:12 

Did everyone else think it was delicious?

Hallie Casey  5:14 

I don’t remember I was very self centered teenager.

Chris Casey  5:18 

Okay, I’m just trying to get a bead on how this thing tastes.

Hallie Casey  5:21 

Yeah, so well that’s the Texas one. You can’t usually buy those ones you have to know when they’re fruiting and then go out and forage for them. They’re actually starting to flower right now, which is a little early for them because everything in here in Texas has been flowering a little bit early because it’s been a warm winter. So they’ll probably be coming in in like June or July where they usually come in around July or August. But that’s pretty much all we’re going to be talking about Diospyros Texana, because most of the episode we’re going to be talking about Diospyros Kaki which is like the commercial one.

Chris Casey  5:53 

The ones from Japan.

Hallie Casey  5:54 

Yeah, and Mainland China. So I first learned about the Japanese persimmon when I was in my post harvest class when I was in grad school, do you know what post harvest means?

Chris Casey  6:06 

Does it mean how to pick plants? No- how to store plants?

Hallie Casey  6:12 

Yes, exactly how to store plants. And the reason we talked about this for persimmons is because persimmons are very hard to store in a way that makes them delicious.

Chris Casey  6:25 

Okay, so I remember, you could store the apple up to like a year, right in giant silos, and I was shocked. So is the persimmon not similar?

Hallie Casey  6:36 

It’s not similar in that when you store an apple, you kind of pick it and then you chuck it in a bin, whereas with the persimmon, you have very different kinds of persimmons based on the cultivars and then how you store them has to be really really intricate, so it really quickly, persimmons. We don’t grab a lot of them a lot because of these issues with storing them. We’ve grew 7.9 million tons in 2018.

Chris Casey  7:04 

That’s sounds like a lot.

Hallie Casey  7:05 

it sounds like a lot. Yeah, it’s like 17.4 billion pounds. Most of that was grown in China, a lot of that was sold in eastern Asia because it’s more common to eat it there. It’s kind of more in the cuisine, people are more, you know, experienced with eating it. Here in North America, it’s not as common. To be put in the cuisine, partly because it has had some issues being grown here in the US. Pretty much all of the persimmon growth in the US comes out of California. And there’s a lot of competition for California real estate. There’s a lot of other crops that are jockeying for those fields. So if you haven’t quite cracked the persimmon, like a recipe on how to grow it perfect and then market it, then it’s hard to do it in a way that’s economical because that land is just so valuable.

Chris Casey  8:01 

And so many things we eat come from there.

Hallie Casey  8:03 

It’s true.

Chris Casey  8:04 

Okay, so like you said 17.4 billion pounds. How do people consume these billions of pounds of persimmons? I’m wondering.

Hallie Casey  8:15 

A lot of them are eaten fresh, just like fresh produce. You can also put them in things like jams or in desserts or in other things like that, that you would put a sweet fruit in. But for the most part, they are known as a fresh fruit that you would eat kind of like how you would just eat an apple or something like that where you just chomp it.

Chris Casey  8:34 

Does it have to be peeled or anything like that?

Hallie Casey  8:37 

No, no, you just chomp it. You just get in there and chomp it and Japanese persimmons have seedless fruits. So that’s nice because generally, the persimmon seeds can be pretty hefty. So that’s quite nice if you’re just going to chomp something if there’s no there’s no seeds in the side of it.

Chris Casey  8:57 

All right. Well, you know when I’m editing the episode, it feels like I have to chomp a cut. When we go into a break, chomp chomp chomp chomp chomp. 😉

Hallie Casey  9:11 

Dad, did you know that we have a discord channel?

Chris Casey  9:15 

I did know that! It’s a lot of fun.

Hallie Casey  9:20 

We also have a Facebook group, both on the discord channel and on the Facebook group Dad and I post all the time. Lots of other folks who listen to the podcast come in and we talk about plants and all the plants that we’re hoping to grow and there’s right now actually in the discord, there’s a whole channel just dedicated to wildflower pictures. And it’s amazing. It’s like my favorite place on the internet right now. If you just want to come and discuss how beautiful the blooms are. That’s the place to do it.

Chris Casey  9:49 

It’s true. There’s some great pictures. People get advice on the plants that they have. If they’re not doing well. Maybe they need water or maybe they need sun or something and people talk about that. And I make hilarious jokes all the time and it’s great!

Hallie Casey  10:08 

if you want to join either the Facebook group or the discord you can go to onetogrowownpod.com/discord or / group and find us there. That’s onetogrowonpod.com/discord for the discord and onetogrowonpod.com/group for the Facebook group.

Chris Casey  10:25 

And a big thank you to all of our patrons especially our star fruit patrons. Patrick, Vikram, Lindsey, Mama Casey and Cheyenne.

Hallie Casey  10:35 

Thank you guys so much. Should we get back to the episode?

Chris Casey  10:39 

Back to the episode!

Ad Music Outro  10:44 

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Hallie Casey  10:46 

Okay, dad, do you have any Nature Facts for us?

Chris Casey  10:48 

I do! This one I came across just randomly. A friend of mine named Kevin post the Austin improv schedule every day and in that schedule, he posts a random fact and  one day, his random fact was about the Rocky Mountain locust. Which was one of the dominant pests of the 19th century. And he said that once form in April of 1875 covered 200,000 square miles.

Hallie Casey  11:14 

Wow!

Chris Casey  11:15 

Yep. But over a period, I’m not sure when they started but over a period of about 30 years, agricultural development in the Rocky Mountains accidentally destroyed the locust nesting grounds and made the species completely extinct. And now North America is the only inhabited continent without a locust species.

Hallie Casey  11:37 

Wait, I thought locusts were the same as grasshoppers. I was pretty sure that a locust was the same as a grasshopper and so now I’m really- wait! Was the locus a cicada?

Chris Casey  11:45 

Locusts are neither grasshoppers nor cicadas. I think some people call cicadas locusts but they’re not the same.

Hallie Casey  11:55 

I am very surprised by this news!

Chris Casey  11:58 

Right? If you look up a picture of them they do look a lot like a grasshopper. It’s a species of short horn grasshoppers.

Hallie Casey  12:09 

Okay, so it’s like a specific kind of grasshopper. So we have other grasshoppers…

Chris Casey  12:13 

Yes.

Hallie Casey  12:14 

So a locust is a grasshopper but a grasshopper is not a locust. Right? Okay. Okay. That’s very interesting. Do you know there’s also trees called locust trees?

Chris Casey  12:23 

No, I had no idea.

Hallie Casey  12:24 

Yeah, they’re in the lagoon family. We have a lot of them here in Texas.

Chris Casey  12:28 

Do they make beans?

Hallie Casey  12:28 

They do make beans.

Chris Casey  12:30 

Nice.

Hallie Casey  12:32 

Ta da da ta da! Nature fact!

Chris Casey  12:34 

Nature fact! Alright, so, in the first half of the episode, you used a word that I didn’t ask you about, which was cultavar. What is that?

Hallie Casey  12:47 

So a VAR variety is a specific -What do we call it? We call it a… we don’t call it bloodlines because plants don’t have bloodlines.

Chris Casey  13:00 

Do the half chlorophyll lines?

Hallie Casey  13:04 

HAAA! That has to go in the outtakes cuz I was not on my mic when I said bloodline.

Chris Casey  13:10 

Does it have a genetic lineage?

Hallie Casey  13:12 

Yeah. So VARities is basically a specific kind of like a breed of plant kind of like you would have a breed of dogs. But the thing that’s different is that varieties are naturally occurring. So you just have some plants that cross a bunch and maybe they’re a little bit geographically isolated, and they start kind of doing their own thing in a way where it’s not like they can’t get with other plants that are still in the species, but they keep doing something that just makes them a little bit different. Sometimes this has to do with flower color, or like shape or size. But the word culturivar was invented to describe basically breeds of plants that were actually bred. So it’s short for cultivated variety.

Chris Casey  14:00 

Okay kind of like selecting for a seed for some plant. Basically it’s like that you’re just you’re just breeding the ones you want.

Hallie Casey  14:09 

Yeah, yeah, seed breeding. There’s all kinds of crossbreeding and stuff like that.

Chris Casey  14:16 

They’re not clones.

Hallie Casey  14:18 

No, they are not clones. But a clone is a plant. Usually if you have a clone, then it has some kind of plant trademark, which is different than a cultivar, but similar in a lot of ways, but-

Chris Casey  14:30 

Just taking our favorite plants and breeding them!

Hallie Casey  14:32 

Exactly. Most of these Japanese persimmons are producing seedless fruit, which is great, but some of these Japanese persimmons with seedless fruit produce astringent fruit. Do you know the word astringent? It’s kind of a weird word. I remember when I learned it, I had no idea what it meant.

Chris Casey  14:49 

I do I used to make beer. If I did something wrong or left something in the mash or the boil or something too long or something while to get in there that shouldn’t be then yeah, it would have an astringent flavor and it was not good at all.

Hallie Casey  15:06 

Yeah, astringency can mean like acidity or bitterness, generally just kind of a gross flavor that can’t really be described any other way because it’s a flavor. It’s like trying to describe colors. It just is what that is.

Chris Casey  15:21 

That’s true.

Hallie Casey  15:21 

So, the persimmons that are astringent that do become astringent have to be eaten superduper soft, whereas if you have persimmons that have been bred to be non astringent, then you can eat them super crisp like an apple.

Chris Casey  15:36 

And I guess different people just have different preferences as to which persimmon they like and presumably they’re marketed as such like if I go to a persimmon grocery store, then you have the astringent persimmons and the non astringent persimmon, sort of like you’d have Golden Delicious apples and what’s the one that goes in pies, Granny Smith?

Hallie Casey  15:58 

Yeah, yeah. Very similar to that, the most common astringent persimmon is a hot chia. The most common non astringent one is a Fuyu. That’s true that like different people have different tastes, but also whether or not it can be sold crisp has a really big impact on how long you can store it because if you have to keep it around until it’s real squishy, then that can be an issue for getting it out to market because then you usually have a pretty short shelf life.

Chris Casey  16:26 

Do these ripen as they sit on the shelf or in storage?

Hallie Casey  16:31 

Yeah, so the astringent ones can the non astringent ones can as well but you’re not as concerned with ripening because they’re already tasting good. Whereas if you have one that tastes bad, you really have to make sure it’s ripe.

Chris Casey  16:44 

Got it.

Hallie Casey  16:44 

So  one of the wild things that scientists have found is that if you take persimmons that have astringency you can what’s called cure them before they go to market.

Chris Casey  16:57 

You mean like jerky?

Hallie Casey  16:58 

Kind of. What happens is that you usually have these persimmons that are put into a big room or like a just some somewhere that’s that’s airtight, and they are brought up to 80% co2 for 24 hours at 20 degrees Celsius, and then after that they are not astringent anymore, but they can still be firm.

Chris Casey  17:22 

Weird

Hallie Casey  17:23 

Isn’t that wild?

Chris Casey  17:24 

I’m trying to picture that just a bunch of persimmons in a room with high concentration of co2 and it changes the flavor.

Hallie Casey  17:32 

Yeah, it changes the flavor without changing the firmness so you can also cure these astringent persimmons. If you put them in 10 parts per million ethylene at 20 degrees Celsius, but then you they usually go soft really quickly. So unlike any other fruit really we use high concentrations of co2 to cure the persimmons while maintaining firmness. There’s not really any other produce as far as I’m aware that you do this with most other things when you’re doing post harvest, you have to use ethylene or some other hormone. co2 is not a hormone. It’s wild.

Chris Casey  18:10 

So, to answer my earlier question, no, that’s nothing like curing beef jerky.

Hallie Casey  18:16 

I don’t know that much about beef jerky.

Chris Casey  18:18 

Which you just cover in salts and spices and stick it in the fridge for a day.

Hallie Casey  18:25 

I mean, it is also stuck in somewhere for a day. So in that sense, that’s true. And a cold place for a day!

Chris Casey  18:32 

And it does presumably change the chemical composition since it comes out with a different flavor. So scientists discovered that this happens do they discover the mechanism for this happening?

Hallie Casey  18:42 

They might have I have not discovered it however. So I have one more fun persimmon fact. So unripend persimmons, these astringent ones have shibiall which is asoluble tannins. Aannins create astringency. It’s why we don’t eat things like acorns because they have a lot of these tannins in them.

Chris Casey  19:00 

Boy, do they ever!

Hallie Casey  19:01 

So shibiall polymerizes when it comes in contact with a weak acid such as stomach acid, and so if you eat a lot of unripe persimmons, it can polymerize in your stomach and form what is medically known as a a bezoar.

Chris Casey  19:15 

Hold the phone.  So when you say polymerize you mean like turn solid?

Hallie Casey  19:24 

Yeah, turn solid into a gross little stomach rock.

Chris Casey  19:26 

Wow, that’s amazing.

Hallie Casey  19:29 

Is that not amazing? It’s super weird and kind of gross because if you look on the Wikipedia page, they have a lot of photos of like jewelry that was made with bezoars.

Chris Casey  19:40 

I mean, once a bezoar forms inside of you I feel like there’s only one way to get it out.

Hallie Casey  19:46 

Yep, pretty much.

Chris Casey  19:48 

And people want to wear that as jewelry.

Hallie Casey  19:51 

Yeah, a lot of them aren’t human bezoars as well. They are bezoars from things like goats.

Chris Casey  19:56 

Okay, well, which is what it is in the Harry Potter books. I mean, is that really more gross than coffee that’s been pooped out by beetles or whatever?

Hallie Casey  20:08 

I think it is. I know a lot about that coffee that has gone through a digestive process. I don’t think it’s that gross. We can do a whole episode on coffee and I can get all into the poop coffee.

Chris Casey  20:20 

All right, well, I’m looking forward to some poop coffee! I want to see what a bezoar looks like. Oh, there’s one with hair sticking out of it.

Hallie Casey  20:28 

Yeah, that’s coming from your stomach.

Chris Casey  20:32 

Dude! There’s not hair your stomach, you know, whatever.

Hallie Casey  20:36 

I mean, if you’re an animal that eats animals, there probably is.

Chris Casey  20:40 

Thanks for listening to this episode of One To Grow On!

Hallie Casey  20:43 

This show is hosted by me Hallie Casey and Chris Casey. It is produced by Katherine RJ

Chris Casey  20:47 

and Holly Casey.

Hallie Casey  20:48 

Our music is Something Elated by Broke For Free.

Chris Casey  20:51 

Connect with us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook at One To Grow On Pod.

Chris Casey  20:55 

You can find all of our episodes as well as more information about the show and the team on our website, onetogrowonpod.com. Join our community and learn more about each episode at patreon.com/onetogrowonpod. There you can get access to audio extras fascinating follow ups, and even custom art created just for you.

Hallie Casey  21:15 

If you like the show, pleaseshare it with your friends. Sharing is the best way to help us reach more ears.

Chris Casey  21:21 

Be sure to check out the next episode in two weeks!

Hallie Casey  21:23 

But until then keep on growin’!

Chris Casey  21:24 

Bye, everybody.