Let us set the scene. Fall in the West Village–late September, or maybe November. You walk into the tearoom and notice the orange accents all over the space. A pile of persimmons accompanying the teaware display plus another on the cake stand, a persimmon on each table, and a few more scattered along the shelves. Maybe even a few hanging by white thread on a makeshift drying rack. Strange, because there’s no persimmon on the menu today. Are they alright to eat? Just a decoration? Are they even real persimmons?
These questions have come our way a few times over the years, and there’s only one answer: persimmons are just pretty great. They look good, they last a while (decorations can’t go bad in a day or two), and when they’ve ripened they taste good, too.
Persimmons & Chinese New Year
At this point, you may be wondering why we’re selling dried persimmons for the lunar new year if they’re a fall fruit. It’s a fair point. Even with a lengthy drying process they could still be ready in time to match the tearoom’s fall decor, depending on when we start drying.
Persimmons, however, are a symbol of luck, which makes them a regular appearance in Chinese New Year celebrations, whether dried, fresh, or in cake form. And honestly, can you really say we don’t need some good luck right now?
The Drying Process
This may be the first year we’re selling dried persimmons, but it’s not the first time Fred has experimented with drying persimmons. Trust us, it’s a whole process.
There’s the prep, and the waiting of course, but persimmons also require regular massaging–you read that correctly–to get the best texture. So basically, a persimmon drying is sort of like a show dog: if you’re serious, it requires a lot of care and a touch of pampering.
We documented some of our (okay fine, Fred’s) persimmon journey on Instagram, but if we’re being totally honest it was only once we were sure they’d turn out alright. Or rather, mostly sure–you can never know until you taste the finished product whether it worked.
First things first: Fred washed and peeled the persimmons. To hang them, most people just tie the thread to the persimmon’s stem, but Fred uses a screw. Sounds hardcore right?
Not quite–it’s a dramatic response to a practical problem. The string is less likely to slip off a screw than the stem if it isn’t tied well enough.
You can see how annoying it would be to retie a persimmon to the ceiling if it fell. Not to mention how annoying it would be to have a persimmon fall on your head while helping a customer. Fruit projectiles are never a good sign, even if it's just a rogue persimmon.
Ah yes, the massage. You can probably tell that these are still in the earlier stages of the drying process. Persimmons need to be massaged every several days at this point, but when they start to really dry out it becomes a daily requirement.
And just imagine putting in that many massage hours, only to have one of them fall ungratefully on your head? We know fruits aren’t sentient (right?? Don’t answer), but that doesn’t mean we can’t assign blame if we really want to. And so: screws instead of stems.
Here, you can see the difference between a fresh persimmon and one that’s partway through the drying process.
Final shot of all the persimmons in the tearoom. For our friends who come to the tearoom regularly, you know that the capacity issue was usually a matter of how many people fit comfortably in the tearoom.
This time, it was how many persimmons could comfortably hang in the tearoom with all of them staying easily within reach from a ladder.
Special thanks to Garrett Long, our lovely staff who took care of all the persimmon massaging. He is now a persimmon massage expert!