I'm a freelance writer living in Perth. Having 2 young kids with endless energy, we are always on the lookout for new outdoor activities.
Published May 14th 2012
Eating fresh means we have to be aware of what is in season at the moment. And from late autumn to early spring, one of the best fruits in season is persimmon. Its attractive orange colour, its crunchy texture, and its sweet taste make persimmon a family favourite.
Persimmons at Waterwheel Orchard
To get the freshest, the juiciest possible persimmons, nothing beats going straight to where the trees are. We can get fruits that only hours before have been hanging happily from their branches, oblivious to their upcoming fate.
Waterheel Orchard is a small persimmon orchard located in the suburb of Bedfordale. For the geographically challenged, it is nowhere near Bedford, it is closer instead to Armadale. So from the city, cross the Swan River via the Causeway, head down Albany Highway for about 30km, turn left into Waterwheel Road, and the orchard is the first property on your left.
Starting in May every year, the packing shed will be open for fruit sales on Wednesdays to Saturdays. Very much family owned and operated, the shed would usually be manned by a family member, and thus far I have had the honour of meeting the mother, the daughter, and the daughter's beau. Whoever is in charge would be happy to explain to you the love labour that goes into the harvest.
At the end of the persimmon season (early spring), the trees are bare of leaves.
Persimmons mature at different rates, so each persimmon must be manually inspected and only clipped from the tree when ready. Straight after picking, they are not yet ready to eat as they are covered by a white powdery layer that occurs naturally with persimmon.
The fruits then undergo a polishing process to remove the white powders and are machine-graded according to size. After that, somebody would manually inspect each fruit for flaws such as unusual shapes, mealy bug bites, bruises, and other marks. Fruits of the same size and quality are then packed into boxes -- ready for you to take home. Depending on size, each box contains about 14 to 28 fruits.
The best quality fruits would be labeled Grade 1 (perfect in appearance as well as content). The next level is labeled Grade 2, this is for fruits with slightly imperfect appearance but perfectly good content, usually they would have some marks that are only on the surface of the skin. Grade 3 is the lowest grade for sale, reserved for fruits with deeper flaws, for example a mealy bug bite that would have to be cut off. Since the flaws are small, it makes sense to purchase Grade 3 if you want to save money as you only have to cut off a small section of the fruit before enjoying the rest.
These persimmons with highly unusual shapes are not for sale. They are on display for fun in the shed. Notice there are more on the shelf in the background.
What I like most about visiting this orchard (other than the opportunity to buy lots and lots of fresh persimmons) is the fact that everyone is so open and welcoming. Not only do they allow our kids (and ourselves) to go poking around in their shed and asking a gazillion of questions, they would also allow you to walk around in the orchard itself. Whoever happens to be picking the fruit would have some friendly words, be happy to humour the young ones, show you how the fruits are clipped (close but without hurting the calyx), and answer another gazillion of questions. Such a different experience compared to buying less fresh and more expensive persimmons from the less knowledgable and more impersonal supermarkets.
This is the way we pick the fruit, pick the fruit, pick the fruit...