I just read something that one of my friends back home posted on Facebook, and it reminded me of something I meant to tell you. About a month ago, I was in the town of Jeonju, South Korea. Jeonju is famous as the place bibimbap supposedly orginated. It’s a fair size town, with a very big old quarter filled with “Hanok”–the traditional, old style Korean courtyard homes with the elevated, heated floors that you sleep on. They call them “ondol” rooms. Some of these old hanoks operate as bed and breakfasts.
People go there to stay in these old timey hanoks and browse through the very quaint old town. Kind of like Korea’s version of Colonial Williamsburg, or Solvang. You see a lot of out-of-towners there on weekend getaways; mostly Korean folks. I didn’t see another westerner the whole time I was there, and there wasn’t a lot of English spoken or on signs.
Anyhoo, I wanted to have the experience of staying in a hanok, and sleep on the floor and the whole shebang, so I was researching online to find a good one. I often check out TripAdvisor when I’m looking for recommendations for places to stay; I find, if you read about five or six reviews, you usually get a pretty good sense of whether a place is going to work for you.
So, I perused the reviews of various hanok in Jeonju, and I noticed that many of them referred to all the lovely apricot trees in town. Several different people gushed about it; some even referring to a specific hanok in which they had stayed having a “big apricot tree” right there in the courtyard. I thought “okay, have to make a note to see what kind of apricot stuff they have there that I can try,” assuming the locals would have all manner of jams and pastries and candies, etc., if they had so many apricots around.
When I got there, I kept my eyes peeled for these supposedly ubiquitous apricot trees, but there aren’t any. There are, however, scads of persimmon trees. Everywhere, branches loaded and heavy with the voluptuous, orange fruit. In October, persimmons were starting to drop on the ground and sidewalks all over, like sweet, pulpy, orange bombs.
There’s nothing mutually exclusive about persimmons and apricots–we had both types of trees in our field when I was a kid–so it didn’t hit me until I had explored the whole area for a couple of days without seeing a single apricot tree, that I realized those TripAdvisor reviewers didn’t know a persimmon when they saw one! Oh, no no no no no….those are not apricots. Not even close. The only similarity is that they both grow on trees, and they’re both some shade of orange, although not the same shade, at all.
Persimmons are very popular in Korea. They eat them fresh, like any fruit. I’m not crazy about the texture, but there’s no denying the sweet flavor. It’s like candy. Also, when the fruit is at its peak of ripeness, they freeze them, and then cut up the frozen persimmon flesh into cubes, and eat it like ice cream. You don’t have to add a thing (although, I personally feel that most things benefit from a dab of cream, and I bet this would, too). The freezing does away with the weird texture, and makes for a unique, delicious and healthy dessert!