PERSIMMONS – THE FRUIT OF WINTER
Enjoyed raw they are surprisingly versatile in different cooking applications. Read more to see some of our recipes using Hachiya persimmons.
THE FLAVOR OF A PERSIMMON
As leaves start to turn in announcing the arrival of Autumn, the persimmons start to make their appearance as small green fruit. Native to China and parts of the U.S., persimmons are a versatile sweet winter fruit with a subtle flavor of fresh spices and honey. I still remember eating thin slices of chilled persimmon during my childhood. These were the Fuyu variety which are shaped like a tomato with the crispiness of an apple slice. It was always a treat because they are not your typical fruit that you would normally see in a grocery store. When I was a kid, I thought that the name sounded like cinnamon so I imagined that I was eating a cinnamon fruit.
WHEN TO EAT A PERSIMMON
Persimmon season starts in early fall and runs through the beginning of winter. There are hundreds of varieties both wild and cultivated with two main classifications. Astringent persimmons must be fully ripened before you eat them. When they are ready to eat, the texture tends to be softer like an overripe mango. The non-astringent type remain firm and crispy at the point of peak ripeness. Over time they will start to soften as well. During the ripening process, hardened fruit will change color from green to shades of light yellow, deep orange, bluish-orange and reddish-orange depending on the variety. The smallest persimmons are the size of a plum, while the largest reach the size of a small mango.
WHAT DOES ASTRINGENT MEAN?
If you have ever bitten into an unripened astringent type of persimmon, it is an unpleasant experience. Most varieties of persimmon are highly tannic because the sugars are not fully developed until they become ripe. Eating an unripened astringent persimmon leaves you with a dry and bitter mouthfeel. Persimmon can ripen both on and off the tree. They should be picked from the tree once they turn orange and have reached their mature size. It can take from 6 -10 days till the fruit starts to soften. At this point, they are ready to eat.
Despite this, persimmon are a winter fruit that are a rare treat with a brief growing season. If you grow persimmons, they are best shared with friends and family as they yield a large number of fruit in the right conditions. Let us know if you have any persimmon recipes that you would like to share.
There are over 1000 varieties of persimmon on record. The more popular commercial and locally grown varieties are the Hachiya, Fuyu and American persimmons.
*Journal Notes: Some of the astringent variety can still remain astringent even fully ripe. Biting into one has happened to me on occasion.
DID YOU MASSAGE YOUR HOSHIGAKI TODAY?
Persimmons are also symbolic in Buddhism. Growing up, mochi (Japanese rice cakes) were displayed with a Fuyu persimmon to represent transformation and wisdom as we entered the new year. A growing trend that I have not seen in decades is a preparation technique called Hoshigaki. I had seen it at my grandparent’s home when I was young, but was never familiar with the process. Persimmon are hung from string suspended from bamboo poles in order to slowly dehydrate them while the sugars develop. This does take time as proper drying can take weeks. The end result is an amazing darkened persimmon gummy fruit that you slice as a dessert or snack with afternoon tea. There is an interesting article here on NPR that describes the process.
THE MAIN TYPES OF PERSIMMONS
The photos in this post are the Hachiya variety from my yard in Northern California. It is a slow fruit, so patience is definitely a virtue. From the time the fruit first started to appear on the tree till fully ripe was nearly seven weeks. Hachiya are astringent and should be fully ripe and soft before eating. They are very versatile paired with fruits, vegetables and meats for raw applications, cooking or baking. See my upcoming recipes with Hachiya persimmons.
Fuyu are the most popular variety of persimmon in Japanese food culture. They are more of rounded shape with a very uniform deep orange colored flesh. As a non-astringent variety they are best enjoyed firm when fully ripened. Used in both savory and sweet applications, they are in my opinion best enjoyed raw. You can use persimmons in ice cream, purees and even pudding.
The American varieties are typically smaller than the Asian persimmon resembling the size and shape of a golfball. Diospyros virginiana or the common persimmon are cultivated on a very small scale in the U.S. Popularity has spread in recent years despite consumer reluctance because of the astringent nature of unripened fruit (Ames, 2010). If you can get your hands on persimmons in season, the reward is worth the effort.
- Easy Homemade Persimmon Jelly
- Gluten Free Persimmon Mochi Donuts with Earl Gray Cream and Toasted Coconut
- Fast and Easy Persimmon Butter Mochi
- Persimmon Bread Pudding with Sticky Toffee Sauce