In Southern California in particular, the sight of persimmons hanging from trees is a sure sign that fall has arrived. Generally speaking, from late October through late November – the season can be severely altered by climatic conditions, and is most favorable following a period of hot summer days with cool evenings – lines snake at Farmers Market stalls as people clamor for the elusive fruit. If you’ve never tasted one before, you might be wondering what makes a persimmon so special. Some would say that it has to do with the delicate, sweet flavor, while others would argue that half the fun is in getting one to the point of perfect ripeness. Either way, this fruit is sure to make a few appearances on seasonal menus nationwide.
Breaking it Down
As surprising as it may sound given its size, the persimmon, like a tomato, is considered a berry. These berries are native to China and cultivated on a large-scale in Japan. There are thousands of different varieties, each with a unique shape, taste, and seasonality. When it comes to finding persimmons stateside, however, the two most common forms available are the Fuyu and the Hachiya.
The Fuyu looks similar to a tomato. Its appearance is slightly more flat – almost squat – and is a yellow-orange color. When choosing a Fuyu, you want the color to skew orange and be firm, but not rock hard.
The Hachiya, on the other hand, has a more oblong shape, at times resembling a giant acorn. A ripe Hachiya will be dark orange or red and should be purchased when it’s very soft. It may have a brown spot or two on it from ‘sunburn,’ which is perfectly fine, assuming the skin isn’t broken. In short, the more shriveled this persimmon is without being rotten, the better. Be sure to handle it carefully, as fruit this ripe is guaranteed to puncture easily!
Eating it Up
A quick Google search of “persimmon” will render several ‘How To’ articles on what to do when you actually want to eat one. Depending on which variety you have in front of you, options will differ.
The Fuyu can be eaten picked straight from the tree, with a taste similar to a spiced apple. Fuyu are typically used in salads, salsas, and grain dishes, or are an equally delicious snack when dried. Have no fear if your Fuyu starts to break down though, as this will only ensure a sweeter taste.
The Hachiya is a tad bit trickier to master. Because this variety is categorized as ‘astringent,’ it will have an unpalatable bitter, “furry” chalk-like taste to it if it’s not soft enough. You might want to accelerate the softening process by placing the persimmon in direct sunlight for a day or two, or by adding it to a paper bag with apples, bananas, or pears, which are all fruits that produce high quantities of ethylene – a major component in ripening. Once ripe, the Hachiya should be rinsed, have the top removed, and is best served chilled. Some prefer to scoop the flesh straight out with a spoon, but since the skin is edible here, too, it can be sliced or eaten whole. The texture of this persimmon lends itself nicely to purees, puddings, and in baked goods.
The Stuff Legends are Made Of
Persimmons are not just for eating. In the Ozarks region of the country, they’re for predicting the weather, too! According to folklore, the shape of the tiny seeds inside the fruit point to the kind of winter conditions expected. A spoon shape on the seed indicates above average snowfall, a knife shape means lower-than-normal temperatures, and a fork shape signals higher-than-average temperatures. This year, over 50% of the seeds came up with spoons, so residents best be preparing for a snowy season ahead!
Got your hands on a Fuyu persimmon? Try this fresh and healthy salad, and you’ll be hooked on them for life!
Persimmon Salad Recipe with Ginger Mint Dressing (Makes 1 Serving)
Green & Red Leaf Lettuce
1 Fuyu Persimmon, Sliced
2 Tablespoons Pomegranate Seeds
6 Macadamia Nuts, Crushed
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
3 Tablespoons Fresh Lemon Juice
1 Tablespoon Honey
1 Teaspoon Fresh Grated Ginger
Fresh Mint, Chopped
- Combine all of the salad ingredients in a large bowl.
- Mix all of the dressing ingredients together until thoroughly incorporated.
- Top the salad with the dressing. Simple as that!