Food & Drink

The South’s Forgotten Fruit

For a cool-weather dessert, don’t overlook the persimmon

Photo: John Burgoyne

The North can keep its blustery winters, but there is a good reason to welcome a little chill in the air: It means some of the South’s most flavorful ingredients are at their prime, including persimmons. The orange fruit looks like a mini-tomato and grows wildly on trees throughout the region, hanging from branches like ornaments. “They often go unused in yards and on farms because people don’t know what to do with them,” says Steven Satterfield, chef at Miller Union in Atlanta. “They’re an esoteric ingredient, but delicious if you know how to recognize when they’re ripe for eating.” That is usually sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when the skin starts turning black, the astringent flavor fades, and the flesh morphs into smooth, sweet mush. To accelerate ripening, cover them in plastic wrap and leave on the counter (or alternately, put them in the refrigerator to prolong the process until you’re ready to use them). Though not always regulars at grocery stores, persimmons can be found in green markets and through Community Supported Agriculture programs. For an incredible holiday dessert, Satterfield likes to scoop out the flesh and incorporate it into a dense pudding spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg. “Serve it with a crème anglaise, and your guests will be in for a real treat.”

A Winter Greens Guide

Illustration by John Burgoyne

A touch of frost mellows the bitterness of greens. Here are three varieties that are at their height when the mercury is low (from left to right)

Red Swiss Chard

Closely related to beet greens, the leaves have a subtle spinach flavor. Mix them into your favorite pasta dish (at the very end, so leaves just barely wilt), or sauté with butter, Vidalia onion, and bacon.

Tuscan Kale

The elongated blue-green stalks have sturdy cell walls that hold together a bit better than some greens. Sweet and nutty, they’re great sautéed with olive oil, chopped garlic, red pepper flakes, and a pat of butter (add a bit of chicken stock for deglazing the pan).

Curly Mustard Greens

With a wasabi-like kick (the kind you feel in the back of your nose), these greens are perfect for making a hearty winter soup with potatoes and crushed red pepper to bring out the spice. When cleaning the greens, discard any leaves that are turning yellow or brown.