Other Names: Date plum, kaki, simmon.
General Description: The American persimmon (Diospyros virginiana_) and the Japanese persimmon (_Diospyros kaki) are both squat orange-colored fruits with four papery leaves on top and very sweet jellylike flesh. The American persimmon was once a valuable fruit in the eastern U.S. but now is rarely eaten, partly because it has been eclipsed in popularity by the larger Asian persimmon. Early European settlers learned to eat persimmons from Native American tribes, who left the fruit on the tree well into October to ripen it thoroughly and enhance its sweetness. The colonists made persimmons into puddings, preserves, and wine and other alcoholic drinks.
The Japanese persimmon is a cultivated fruit whose wild ancestor grew in China. It has long been popular in China, Japan, and Korea—it is Japan’s national fruit and is a traditional food for the Japanese New Year.
When ripe, these fruits are extremely sweet. Their Latin name, diospyros, means “food of the gods.” Americans eat Japanese persimmons as a fresh fruit, while in Asia they are often dried for storage and used during the winter and early spring. The Hachiya and the Fuyu are both Japanese varieties with thin, smooth red-orange skin that can bruise easily. The entire fruit is edible except for the seed and calyx (the papery leaves). The Hachiya is heart-shaped with creamy, astringent but sweet flavor and apricot-like flesh. In California, Hachiyas are tissue-wrapped and packed in wood boxes for shipment by rail in refrigerated cars. The bright orange, tomato-shaped Fuyu is a nonastringent variety. It can be eaten like an apple and has a sweet, mildly spicy flavor.
The Sharon fruit is an Israeli variety bred to be edible when still firm. Though introduced to France and other Mediterranean countries in the 19th century, it is actually much older—Jewish texts dating back to the 3rd century mention the fruit. The small square-shaped fruits are orange-tan in color. They have sweet flesh even when firm and are seedless and coreless. They are named after the Sharon Valley, between Haifa and Tel Aviv, where they are cultivated.
Season: California persimmons are available October to December, but peak season is mid-October. Sharon fruit is available from late November to mid-February.
Purchase: Choose smooth, brightly colored persimmons that are plump and glossy.
Avoid: Persimmons with yellow patches are unripe.
Storage: Because Hachiyas are so delicate when ripe, they are shipped to market while still hard. An unripe Hachiya can be stored up to 1 month in the refrigerator prior to ripening at home. Ripen at home at room temperature; they may take up to a week to reach a completely soft state. When the flesh is nearly translucent, it’s ready to eat. Fuyu persimmons should be purchased when firm. Enjoy them crunchy and sweet, or soften a bit at room temperature. Once ripe, persimmons don’t keep well. Eat right away or refrigerate for a day or two.
Ripen Sharon fruit at room temperature for 48 hours and then refrigerate for up to 10 days. Small brown spots may appear on the surface and inside the fruit, a sign that the sugar in the fruit has crystallized and created sweet pockets.
- Wash gently.
- With a knife, cut in half.
- Cut out the core and discard the seeds.
Note: An unripe persimmon is highly astringent because of the tannin. Freeze the fruit overnight and then thaw to soften and remove astringency. Ripe persimmons can be frozen with no loss of flavor.
Serving Suggestions: Dice Fuyu or Sharon fruit and add to fruit or vegetable salads. Blend ripe persimmon with soy milk or soft, silken tofu and a dash of cinnamon to make a smoothie. Add mashed Hachiyas to pancake or waffle batter. Substitute persimmon pulp for zucchini in quick breads.
Flavor Affinities: Almonds, apple, brandy, cinnamon, ginger, grapes, hazelnuts, ice cream, kiwi, lemon, lime, orange, pine nuts, pomegranate, soft cheese, walnuts, yogurt.
from Quirk Books: www.quirkbooks.com