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To Judge the Ripeness of Persimmons Know Your Variety

Fine Cooking Issue 76
Photo: Scott Phillips
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From October through December in the produce section of your local market, you’re likely to stumble upon a crate or two of silky, red-orange globes that look somewhat like tomatoes—but taste very different. They’re persimmons, and you’ll probably see two basic varieties: Hachiya and  Fuyu. Both have a flavor that’s predominantly sweet and sometimes hints of honey and plums. But they aren’t necessarily interchangeable in recipes because the variety determines whether you eat them when they’re soft or firm.

Hachiya persimmons have a distinctive acorn shape and thin, deep orange skins. When firm and immature, they contain high levels of tannins that make them astringent and unpalatable. As the fruit ripens, the tannins fade and the flesh becomes sweet and very juicy. A fully ripe Hachiya feels very soft and its flesh has the consistency of dense jelly. You can scoop out the pulp with a spoon and simply eat it, or purée the skinned flesh for smoothies and flavorful fruit sauces. Hachiya purée is also tasty in cookies and cake batters.

Fuyu persimmons look a little like flattened tomatoes, ranging in color from pale to bright orange. Unlike Hachiyas, ripe Fuyus have a firm texture and can be eaten when still crisp—although they’re at their best when allowed to soften just a little. Try slicing a crisp Fuyu like an apple and add it to a salad, or pair a slightly soft Fuyu with goat cheese. Peeling is optional. They’re also delicious poached in sweetened wine, just like a pear.

Regardless of variety, look for plump persimmons with smooth, shiny, orange skin free of cracks or blemishes. Buy ripe persimmons only if you plan to eat them within a day or two, and store them in the fridge. Unripe persimmons can take a few days to ripen— keep them at room temperature until ripe. You can hasten ripening by putting them in a closed paper bag at room temperature with an apple (apples release ethylene, a gas that helps fruit ripen faster).

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