K is for kaki:
The kaki vaniglia fruit, also spelled “cachi” or “caco,” is a persimmon. Persimmons range from bright yellow to deep orange to red-orange, with slight variations in size: oval and longish to round and circular, bringing to mind a slightly orange tomato. Kaki can be found in the United States in supermarkets, but are sold unripe due to their fragility when imported as mature fruits. In Italy, however, they are destined for local farmers’ markets, and so are cultivated and sold in small quantities and irresistibly ripe.
The kaki of Campania originated in Japan, and was first cultivated in Florence in 1971, though by other accounts in Salerno. By the early 1900s, Campania was already the highest-producing region in Italy of this succulent fruit, and remains so today with 50% of national production. In particular, the regions of Naples and Salerno produce the most. 90% of production is of the Diospyrus kaki, a non-astringent variety. This means it is sweet and pleasant to eat before and after it ripens, whereas the astringent variety contains alum, lending a tannic taste and a truly odd, grainy mouthfeel if eaten even slightly under-ripe.
When kaki fruits ripen in September and October, the orbs of yellow and deep orange are pretty spots of color in an otherwise brown, autumnal landscape. The kaki is heavy with juices, with thin skin not unlike that of a tomato, translucent and giving slightly before breaking. A kaki fruit is often cut in half, and the bronze, gelatinous innards are scooped up with a spoon. It is not overly sweet and a bit seedy, but full of nutrients and healthy for digestion. This fruit is not only delicious fresh, but can be cooked into cakes, on a mountain of panna (heavy cream), grilled with honey, or made into jam. Or, as a savory variation, kaki slices can be served over a green salad drizzled with olive oil, vinegar, and slices of smoked meat.
The best places to buy kaki is the local farmer’s market in October or September. I’ve listed two that are popular in Naples, as well as an agriturismo that cultivates them and features them in a few desserts.
Pignasecca Market – Via Pignasecca, Naples, Italy
This market sells fresh fruit, vegetables, seafood, and other tasty items.
Mercatino Antignano – Piazza Antignano, 80127, Naples, Italy
This open-air market sells fresh food as well as clothing apparel. It is popular with the locals.
Open: Monday to Saturday – 8:30 am to 1:30 pm
Agriturismo il Giardino dei Ciliegi
Località Vesolo, Sanza
K is for Ka! Paestum Passito IGT:
The white wine Ka! Paestum Passito IGT is produced by the De Conciliis winery in Cilento, which was previously highlighted in this ABC blog series. Ka! is a dessert wine made from moscato and malvasia grapes, with fruity, specifically peachy and flowery notes. Passito means that the grapes were first dried or semi-dried before the production process of the wine, and so the flavors and sugars are concentrated. This method of production is called rasinate, not unlike “raisin.”
The moscato grape is one of the most widely cultivated grapes in Italy. It tends to produce a wine with low alcohol content and fragrant floral notes, and is usually light gold. It can be naturale (flat), spumante (sparkling), or frizzante (frothy). Interestingly, Ka! has a high alcohol content at 16%, which does not, however, overwhelm the sweetness of the dessert wine. Moscato does not benefit from oak-barrel aging, and so is normally aged in steel vats. With another small, innovative step from the norm, De Conciliis ages Ka! in acacia barrels for six months and in the bottle for one year. Malvasia lends this wine fresh, fruity peach and pear flavors, with a hint of spiciness, while also exhibiting the floral aromatics of moscato.
Because it is so sweet, the Ka! dessert wine pairs well with fresh fruit and pistachios or other light pastries that complement, rather than compete with, its sweetness.
Vineyard Adventures is happy to arrange tours to discover Ka! Paestum Passito IGT.
Cachi – Persimmons. About.com.
I Frutti di Stagione: I Cachi. Uomini Casalinghi. 11 Oct 2005.
Insero, O., A. de Luca and P. Rego. Evaluation of Persimmon Cultivars in Campania (Italy).
Insero, O., R. Parillo and M. Petriccione. Persimmon Cultivation in Campania (Italy): Production and Marketing.
Ka! Viticoltori De Conciliis.
Monastra, F., et. al. The Present Situation of Some Underutilized Crops in Italy.
Smith, Ormond. Sicily and Paestum. Le Confrerie des Compagnons Goustevin de Normandie.
Susan. Porcini Chronicles. 15 Oct 2006.