Tour will celebrate fall's favorite fruit

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Tour will celebrate fall's favorite fruit

One of Korea's most beloved fables is about a tiger, a baby and a fruit. The tiger crouches outside a home, ready to eat the humans inside, when it overhears the mother.

"Don't cry or the tiger will eat you," the mother says. But the baby keeps crying.

"Don't cry or the bear will eat you," she says. But the baby keeps crying.

"Don't cry. Wait, here's a persimmon," the mother says.

And the baby becomes quiet.

The tiger runs away in fear of the persimmon.

The rest of the story focuses on the tiger, but I imagine the baby back inside a cozy home, a smile spread across his fat face as he sucks on the soft fruit, relishing the cinnamon aftertaste. It was probably a ripe hachiya variety, which is softer than the fuyu type.

Persimmons ripen at the end of fall. Their brilliant orange/red color complements the fall palette. To see them in their full glory, head to Sangju.

The North Gyeongsang province city is celebrated for three things: its silk, rice and persimmons. Sangju has christened the persimmon as its official tree. One of the temples in the area, Namjangsa, is considered one of the eight beauties of North Gyeongsang province.

Of note is Namjang village in front of Namjangsa temple. Just about every home in the village, population 447, has a persimmon tree in its garden. After plucking the fruits, villagers lay them on their roofs to dry.

The Royal Asiatic Society hosted a tour to the village last year. Sue Bae, the general manager of the Korean branch of the organization, recalls several visitors asking, "Is it a tomato? What do you do with it?"

Persimmons can be eaten raw as long as they are ripe. Handle them with care. They bruise easily.

Unripened persimmons have an astringent taste. You can substitute persimmons in most recipes that call for apples. Just don't forget to peel the skin.

Persimmons can also be used in a fruit punch. Cooks in other countries use the fruit to make breads, salads, muffins, jellies, shakes and puddings.

DIRECTIONS: From Seoul, catch a bus at the Express Bus Terminal in Banpo-dong to Sangju city. When you arrive in Sangju, take a taxi to Namjangsa temple. The village is nearby. The trip from Seoul to Namjangsa takes about three hours.

by Joe Yong-hee

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