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In season: persimmons

Nolan Adams of Adams Farm in Laurel Hill, Florida, just north of Ft. Walton Beach, is certain persimmons will soon be the fruit to grow in his area of the Florida panhandle.

“Persimmons grow well in this climate zone. They’ve got tough skins that make them resistant to insects and they can be eaten like an apple or when completely ripe. I think in 10 to 20 years, it will be a major fruit for this area.”

Adams is a cattle rancher with 300 acres in pasture. But he also has about 500 persimmon trees planted on seven acres. He planted his first persimmons in 1990. He says it was just a hobby crop at the time but the trees did so well that he kept planting more.

He grows “Jiro” a Fuyu-type, non-astringent persimmon. Even when ripe, these persimmons stay firm. And he grows them chemical-free. “We don’t spray anything on this farm that we’re going to eat.”

Adams says his primary customers are the Korean-Americans who live in the Ft. Walton/Destin area. Since the Jiros ripen all within a few weeks’ time, he hires a crew to help him pick the crop and they package the persimmons in 30-pound boxes. His Korean-American customers will pretty much buy up all the approximately 500 boxes he’ll pack this year.

To expand the market for his persimmons, he takes some of his persimmons to the Saturday Seaside Farmers Market and offers samples to the shoppers there. “My aim is to introduce more people to them. If they’ve only eaten the native persimmon, and got one that wasn’t ripe, then they have a very negative impression of persimmons. Once people try them, they really like them. But getting people to try a new fruit can be like pulling teeth.”

Adams will also have some dried persimmon slices for sale, but says drying persimmons is a pretty labor-intensive process so he encourages people to buy the fruit and dry it themselves.

“I’m very fond of persimmons. I lived in Japan a couple of years and that’s where I was introduced to them. I find that my best customers are the ones from Asia. They all know about them. The Japanese and Koreans are the ones who’ve done the most to improve the varieties.”

Farm Burger’s Grassfed Burger with Grilled Persimmons, Goat Cheese, Arugula and Pesto

Fruit is not just for dessert. The addition of grilled persimmon to a Farm Burger sandwich is a recurring seasonal favorite available at all three Atlanta Farm Burger locations.

The persimmon burger recipe is the creation of Dan Latham of Farm Burger’s Culinary Team. “We have used persimmons in different fashions over the years, including in our market salad, a persimmon slaw for our burger and pureed to make a persimmon wine spritzer. Every year it’s something a little different.

“While selecting persimmons, check for firmness with no decay. A bright orange color usually indicates ripeness, where off-green is under ripe. I love cooking with persimmons as they are very unique in texture, flavor, and make a great jam. We source our persimmons from Rudy and Wallace Taylor.”

1 ripe but firm Fuyu persimmon, cored, cut into 1/4-inch horizontal slices

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 (6-ounce) grassfed beef patty

Salt, pepper and dried red pepper flakes

1 hamburger bun

2 tablespoons Pesto (see recipe)

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh goat cheese

1/2 cup arugula leaves

Preheat grill to 400 degrees. Clean grates and lightly oil.

Coat persimmon slices with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and dried red pepper flakes. Arrange persimmon slices on grill and cook until persimmon is soft and the sugars in the persimmon slices start to caramelize. The slices should not cook until they are mushy. Remove from heat.

Grill burger to your preference.

On serving plate, open bun. Spread pesto on top bun and set aside. Put cooked burger on bottom bun and top with goat cheese. Arrange persimmons slices on top of goat cheese and press to secure. Top with arugula and add the top of the bun. Serve immediately. Serves: 1

Per serving: 920 calories (percent of calories from fat, 69), 39 grams protein, 33 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 70 grams fat (21 grams saturated), 140 milligrams cholesterol, 493 milligrams sodium.

Farm Burger’s Pesto

A good way to toast the pecans or sunflower seeds is in a dry skillet, stirring constantly, until the pecans or seeds are fragrant and just beginning to turn brown. Remove from heat and allow to cool before using. Blended oil is a generally a mixture of canola and olive oil. You can make your own or purchase blended oil at the grocery store.

2 cups basil leaves

1 cup parsley leaves

1 cup toasted pecans or sunflower seeds

1/2 cup grated Parmesan

1 head garlic, peeled and roughly chopped

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup blended oil

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

In the bowl of a food processor, combine basil, parsley, pecans or sunflower seeds, Parmesan, garlic and salt. Pulse a few times, then add the oil and lemon juice while continuing to pulse the mixture. You are looking for a coarse texture, not a smooth puree. Makes: 2 1/2 cups

Per 1-tablespoon serving: 80 calories (percent of calories from fat, 90), 1 gram protein, 1 gram carbohydrates, trace fiber, 8 grams fat (1 gram saturated), 1 milligram cholesterol, 48 milligrams sodium.


Cooking demos:

4:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20. Chef Carolynn Ladd of A Date with Figs demonstrates dishes using market produce. East Atlanta Village Farmers Market, Atlanta.

9 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 22. Chef Jarrett Stieber of Eat Me Speak Me. Morningside Farmers Market, Atlanta.

10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 22. Chef Rodney Ashley of Polaris. Peachtree Road Farmers Market, Atlanta.

4 p.m. – 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 26. Chef Paola Villafane demonstrates dishes using market produce. Decatur Farmers Decatur, Atlanta.


Just appearing at local markets: hardy kiwi, sweet potatoes

Vegetables, fruit and nuts: apples, arugula, Asian greens, beets, carrots, chard, corn, cornmeal, cucumbers, eggplant, elephant garlic, fennel, field peas, garlic, ginger, grits, herbs, kale, lettuce, melons, mushrooms, noodle beans, okra, onions, pecans, peppers, persimmons, pole and snap beans, polenta, potatoes, radishes, shallots, spaghetti squash, summer squash, tomatoes, turmeric, turnips, winter squash

— From local reports

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