Native to Japan, where they’re the national fruit, persimmons are one of the most versatile, yet most commonly underused fall and winter fruits piled into America’s farmers’ markets and grocery stores each cool season. Check out this quick guide for everything you need to know about persimmons and how to use them this season.
By Katherine Foreman
So. What’s the deal with persimmons?
Native to Japan, where they’re actually appreciated as the national fruit, persimmons are one of the most versatile, yet most commonly underused fall and winter fruits piled into America’s farmers’ markets and grocery stores each cool season. Although it resembles a tomato in size, shape and color, the taste of a persimmon is a bit sweeter, enjoyed as a subtle addition to many baked goods and savory entrees alike. We’ve compiled a quick guide for everything you need to know about persimmon specifics and how to use them during the upcoming season.
Derived from the Latin word for “divine fruit,” persimmons have been historically appreciated as being delicious in a variety of ways, from biting into one like an apple to chopping it up and throwing a heaping portion into a recipe. However, in order to get started with persimmons, it’s important to understand the difference between the two most common types: fuyu and hachiya.
Fuyu persimmons (pictured above, right) are very round and squat in shape, and can be eaten much more freely than the hachiya. Since the skin on persimmons is much tougher than that of a tomato, it’s important to peel the fruit before sinking your teeth in to enjoy. Many persimmon connoisseurs argue that the best way to eat a fuyu type is to slice it open and savor the raw flavors. However, being firmer and easier to cook with in a variety of recipes, the fuyu is ideal for including in recipes that need an extra sweet kick, particularly those packed with contrasting, savory flavors.
Hachiya persimmons, on the other hand, are perfect for use in baking sweet treats like cakes, cookies and puddings—in fact, they’re often compared to dates. But these can only be enjoyed at a very specific point of ripeness. These persimmons are longer in shape than the fuyu, with an acorn-like point at the bottom end. You won’t want to eat these guys before they’ve reached their peak—you’ll be met with an unpleasant astringent taste. When shopping for this type of persimmon, try finding ones with flesh that’s jelly-like and juicy. If they’re not quite at this level, let them sit out until they reach this consistency and texture. A good rule of thumb to test whether or not a hachiya is ready to be enjoyed? If it feels similar to a full water balloon, it’s good to go.
Since there’s only a short window in which one can enjoy this exotic fruit, the persimmon makes up for it by working beautifully into a long list of recipes. Some recipes require fuyu over hachiya and vice versa, so we’ve included a little sprinkling of each in this persimmon-perfect roundup for your fall cookbook.
A warm, breakfast-ready confection of spices, dried fruits, toasted nuts and a hint of Cognac, this persimmon-based fall loaf makes an unexpected alternative to that tried-and-true pumpkin bread recipe of yours. Find the recipe here.
Perched atop a layer of this salty ricotta-goat cheese mixture, the beautiful orange hue and subtly sweet taste of the persimmon is a welcome seasonal substitute for its summertime doppelgänger, the tomato. Find the recipe here.
Featuring a hardened glaze, these spice-infused persimmon cookies will most likely be something your family and friends have never tasted before—and will have everyone begging for more all season long. Find the recipe here.
Shrimp and Persimmon Salsa in Toasted Corn Tortilla Cups
Nothing goes better with shrimp than a little sweet contrast, and this persimmon-based salsa serves its purpose well, packed loosely into these delicious bite-sized tortilla cups. Find the recipe here.
Here, chopped fuyu persimmon provides just enough sweet to complement the savory flavors in this creamy risotto. So much so, in fact, that it’s even alright to include a healthy portion of the fruit in this recipe. Don’t be shy, now! Find the recipe here.
Almond Persimmon Cream Cheese Tart
In this recipe, the fuyu persimmon stars in a sweet baked treat. The colors, the textures… irresistible, no? Find the recipe here.