Here’s a quick guide to persimmons, with tips on varieties, prep, uses, and seasonality of unusual and sensuous fruit.
Beauty is only skin deep. That’s good advice for impatient eaters of Hachiya persimmons, the heart-shaped variety that needs to be fully ripened to appreciate its tangy-sweet taste and jelly-like texture.
Don’t even think about eating it before it’s ripe, and don’t rely on color to judge ripeness. The skin is the same vivid orange color whether at the highly astringent, tannic unripe stage or the fully ripened, luscious point. Touch them.
Photo: Nick Koon
Ripe Hachiya persimmons feel like overfilled water balloons. Their pulp can be scooped from the skin like jam from a cup.
Fuyu persimmons, the other well-known variety, are tomato-shaped and a lighter orange color. Because they are not astringent, they can be eaten when apple-like firm or when softened slightly. Sharon fruit, a Fuyu variety grown in Israel, is available December to February.
Cinnamon persimmons, a lesser known but glamorous Hachiya subvariety, have a tomato-like shape similar to the Fuyu, with skin a Fuyu-like shade of light orange. But inside, there’s showy rust-colored speckling dappled throughout its sweet flesh, a pattern reminiscent of powdered cinnamon dusted onto a moist surface. Sweet, low in tannin and astringency, eat them when firm or softened slightly, as with Fuyu persimmons.
Buying and storing persimmons
Cinnamon: Buy and store as with Fuyu. Can be eaten semi-firm and used raw.
Fuyu: They can be eaten when firm or slightly soft. Look for fruit with a green (not brown) calyx. Skin should be a consistent light orange color, not yellow or green. Store in refrigerator up to 14 days or freeze up to 3 months.
Hachiya: Seldom sold ripe because they’re super soft and fragile. But they are easy to ripen at home, either at room temperature or placed in a loosely sealed paper bag with another fruit, such as an apple or banana. When ripe, store in refrigerator up to 10 days. Can also be frozen whole or in pulp form.
Domestic only: October—December
FUYU AND HACHIYA PERSIMMONS
Global only: December—February
Preparation of persimmons
Hachiya: When very ripe, cut off top and scoop cut pulp. Mash pulp by pulsing in food processor fitted with metal blade or push it through a large-mesh strainer. Discard skin.
Fuyu, Cinnamon, and Sharon fruit: Remove calyx and core. Peel if skin is thick. Eat fresh out of hand like an apple. Or cut into medium dice or thin wedges for salads or other cold dishes. Or cut into thin horizontal slices.
Persimmons are a good source of vitamins A and C; they contain potassium and copper and are a good source of fiber. Here’s more detailed nutrition information.
How to use persimmons
Incorporate Hachiya pulp into jam, cookies, sorbet, pudding, smoothies, quick bread, and muffins.
Use Fuyu raw, diced or sliced, in salad or salsa, or cooked in cake, chutney, or cooked sauce.
Hachiya sorbet: Cut off and discard top. Place inplastic bag or container and seal. Freeze for several hours or overnight. Remove from freezer and leave at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes. Use a teaspoon to scoop semi-frozen pulp from the fruit.
Bright and light hachiya persimmon sauce: Place about 1 1/2 cups Hachiya pulp (from 4 fruits) in food processor fitted with the metal blade. Add 1 tablespoon brandy and 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice. Process until smooth. Cover and refrigerate. Spoon over spice cake, gingerbread, ice cream, or rice pudding.
More pizzazz than pumpkin: Substitute persimmon pulp for pumpkin purée in pies, quick breads or cakes.
Cheese tray splendor: Garnish your vegan cheese tray with thin Fuyu wedges.
Fall fruit salad: Gently toss Fuyu wedges with red grapes, pomegranate seeds, and apple wedges. Garnish with kiwi slices.
Autumn salsa: Combine 2 diced Fuyu persimmons, 1/2 cup diced onion, 1/2 cup diced tomatillo, 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, and 1 minced serrano chile. Season to taste with salt. Store in airtight container for up to 2 days in refrigerator. Best served at room temperature.
This information is excerpted and adapted from Melissa’s Great Book of Produce: Everything You Need to Know About Fresh Fruits and Vegetables by Cathy Thomas ©2006, reprinted by permission of Melissa’s Produce.
Melissa’s Produce is a great resource for finding persimmon varieties that your local grocery doesn’t carry, as well as almost any kind of produce under the sun.
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