I’m curious to taste fruits and vegetables that I’ve never eaten before, so when I saw some cachi for sale, I grabbed some even though I wasn’t sure what to expect.
Cachi are bright orange fall fruits that are in season in October and November in Italy. In North America they are known as Japanese Persimmons.
Cachi are an atypical fruit. When they are ripe they are soft and creamy inside, and a popular way to eat them is to cut them in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon.
I just ate one, and it was soft and sweet and very filling. It had a unique flavor and a consistency that I can best compare to a ripe plum, but smoother. Eating it was very strange because with it’s bright orange color and light sweet taste, I felt like I was eating a summer fruit even though it’s November and cold outside.
Originally from China, this plant is also known as Mela d’Oriente “Apple of the Orient”. It arrived in Italy in the 1700s as an ornamental plant and people only started eating its fruit in the mid-1800s.
The original name of the plant is Diospyros kaki, which means cibo degli dei (food of the gods), because of the very sweet taste that comes from the high quantity of sugar in the fruit’s flesh.
The most common kind of cachi, called Loto di Romagna, are gathered and sold when they are still unripe. They must sit for awhile (preferably in a dry, dark place) and ripen before being consumed. Placing them together with apples will speed up the ripening process.
The reason they are not eaten until after they ripen is because they contain high levels of tannins, which start decreasing steadily once the fruit is taken off the tree.
If eaten unripe, Italians say that they have a sour taste that “binds” the tongue to the teeth. Italian has a verb for this: allappare, and the adjective for this effect is called allappante. The verb can be loosely translated as “to set one’s teeth on edge”, “dry out one’s mouth”, or “to cause one’s mouth to pucker” (think about what happens when you bite into a lemon).
A special kind of cachi is called cacomela (something like ‘cachi apple’), and they can be eaten right after the harvest because they don’t have the allappante effect. They also don’t get as soft inside. The cachi Loto di Romagna seemed physically heavier to me, and they were more liquidy inside, but there wasn’t much difference in taste between the two kinds.
Cachi contain a lot of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and fiber, and are good for the nervous system, the liver, and for relieving gastrointestinal problems. However, they contain a lot of sugar and are a high calorie fruit (with sixty-five calories per 100 grams [3.5 ounces] of fruit).
Curiosità (‘Fun fact’):
The tree is also known as l’Albero delle Sette Virtù (the Tree of Seven Virtues) for:
1. Its long life
2. The ample shade it offers
3. Its branches that provide homes for birds
4. The absence of parasites
5. Its decorative yellow-red leaves that remain until the frosts
6. The fire its wood produces
7. The rich fertilizer its bountiful foliage produces when it falls