A little known fruit called the persimmon

The word exotic doesn’t exist in Arabic language. When it gets translated, it becomes ‘strange’. Of course, this causes a great deal of confusion when food and lands are described as exotic in English.
What’s so strange about food? It’s all to do with taste and texture (now you see the dilemma with food ‘tasting funny’). How about exotic lands? They do have mountains, rivers and trees like the rest of the planet, right?
At home, we use the word exotic as a joke to describe any weird situation that makes no sense. Just repeat the word exotic twice, and someone would laugh, guaranteed!
In my childhood — being the only girl at home — I always accompanied my mother to the supermarket. Fruits that came from other continents always fascinated me such as: dragon fruit, passion fruit, lychee and persimmon.
I remember asking my mother about persimmon in particular as it looked like an orange tomato with thick skin. With a nostalgic sigh, she’d remember seeing it for the first time in Japan. Asking her how it tasted always made her shudder and answer: “How would I know? I never tried it before!”
When it came to food, both of my parents were never the adventurous type. They believed that anything they’re not used to eating would cause them a fatal stomach ache.
I never dared to ask them to buy any exotic fruit. Other than being expensive, what if I didn’t like the taste? I wouldn’t hear the end of it from my mum and would have to force myself to finish it while cursing my stupid decision.
Years later as an adult, I had the chance to try all the exotic fruits that I once marvelled at on the supermarket shelves. I wasn’t really impressed by the tastes of them. Everything was either plasticish (star fruit), sour (passion fruit) or tasteless (dragon fruit).
I kept away from persimmons as I wasn’t a fan of tomatoes and imagined that it would taste something like it. But fate had other plans for me.
While being in Spain last year, I struck a friendship with the Moroccan shopkeeper Ahmed who owned a fruits and vegetables shop in the neighbourhood. Every time I went in, Ahmed would add something extra in my bag: oranges, dates or strawberries.
At one time, he put a piece of persimmon in my bag saying in Spanish: Un regalo para ti! I smiled and thanked him graciously while I had an inner debate whether to ask how to eat his gift: should I peel it? Does it have stones inside? I decided to keep my questions aside and ask for the advice of our modern-days oracle: Mr Google.
Reaching home, I opened my laptop and typed the question: “how to eat persimmon?” and a flood of videos came up. I clicked one of them that showed a piece of persimmon with the stem being removed before being consumed without further ado.
Being health conscious, I checked its health benefits and was surprised to know that although being high in sugar levels, persimmons were rich in iron, manganese, vitamins A and C. From that time on, I became a fan of the fruit and kept buying it during my stay in Spain. I continued the ritual here but was disappointed by the quality that reached us from Lebanon as it was either frozen or rotten.
Two weeks back, I found ones that were brought from Morocco and they were much better. Not like the magical one that was given to me first by the Moroccan shopkeeper but close enough.
Rasha al Raisi is a certified skills trainer and the author of:
The World According to Bahja.
rashabooks@yahoo.com