Easily mistaken for underripe tomatoes, these round, orangy-red fruits are popular the world over. Depending on the variety, persimmons can have smooth, custard-like flesh that tastes of banana and mango, or firmer flesh with notes of apricots and a mellow sweetness. You can eat persimmons out of hand or add them to sweet dishes such as puddings, breads, cookies, and ice cream. They’re also delicious in savory preparations like salsas and relishes, in salads, or sautéed as a side dish for roasted pork or lamb. So the next time you see them in the produce aisle, bring home a few and get a taste of what you’ve been missing.
Persimmons are part of the genus Diospyros, which means “fruit of the gods” in Greek, persimmons are tree fruits grown in many countries, including China, Italy, the United States, and Japan (where they are considered the national fruit). They are in season from fall through winter and are an excellent source of fiber as well as vitamins A and C.
Persimmon varieties are divided into two categories, astringent and nonastringent. Astringent varieties, such as the acornshaped Hachiya, are tannic and sour when underripe; they should be eaten when very ripe and jelly-soft. Fuyu is the most common nonastringent variety; shaped like pincushions, they are smaller than Hachiyas and have fewer tannins, so they can be eaten both underripe and soft. The Fuyu has a subtle, crisp flavor reminiscent of apricots, while the Hachiya has tropical fruit notes and is very rich and sweet.
Look for fruit that is plump, heavy for its size, and vibrantly colored, with glossy skin. Avoid those with bruises, blemishes, or cracks.
Remove the core for both eating and cooking. The skin is edible, though you may want to peel it, because it can be a little waxy. Cut the fruit into wedges, slices, or cubes. Ripe Hachiyas are often the persimmon of choice for sweet dishes. The firmer texture and subtly sweet flavor of Fuyus make them a good variety for savory preparations.
Keep the unripe fruit at room temperature, preferably in a brown paper bag, to help it ripen. If persimmons are already ripe and soft when you buy them, eat them right away or store in the refrigerator for no more than two days.