The acorn-shaped Tamopan persimmon is being harvested from Mud Creek Ranch's five trees this month. More commonly available in Asia, specifically its native China, the Tamopan lives between two worlds. It grows large and oblate like fuyu type persimmons, but if you try to eat it like one you'll get a mouthful of hachiya astringency. Without that quirky shouldered cap sitting on top, we'd be caught in an annual guessing game of how to eat it.
Tamopans are astringent persimmons, which means they need to ripen into a soft, pudding-like consistency. Like all persimmons, the Tamopans are chock full of glucose, making them very sweet, but don't expect the syrupy glop of most local hachiyas. Mud Creek Ranch is one of only two vendors that we've found growing the Tamopan (the other is a private grower who doesn't sell to the public). Move fast. They'll only be around until the New Year.
The best way to eat a fully ripened Tamopan takes advantage of its thick, leathery skin. Cup the belly of the fruit in your hand and scoop out the stem. You can then spoon the fruit out of its own natural bowl. The skin isn't completely tear proof and is in fact edible, but its strong enough to stand up to the greedy scrapings of a spoon.
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Robin Smith and her family set up shop at the Ojai, Hollywood, Santa Monica (Wednesday) and Santa Barbara farmers markets, but keep in mind that the Hollywood market is going to be open on Saturday, not Sunday, this coming weekend, due to the Christmas holiday. Same hours. Same location. Just a day earlier.
Smith enjoys the milder sweetness of the Tamopan and says it's fine for fresh and cooked uses, but suggests preserving it by drying the fruit.
"It dries really well," says Smith. "More than the other varieties. The flesh is more dense and they turn hard very fast."
A quick note for your visit to the Mud Creek booth -- be sure to peruse their tangerines. In a few feet you can taste one of the largest and most diverse collections of citrus from all over the world, including varieties that many growers don't consider commercially viable. Smith may only have a few trees of each variety on her 65 acres, but the trees are healthy and productive -- organically grown, of course -- and yield some exceptionally fine winter fruit.