It’s full-on fall across the country and that means local persimmons will be popping up at farmer’s markets and adorning neighborhood trees. While autumn with apples are the usual association, persimmons provide a sweet and fragrant seasonal twist.
But before you pucker up to your first persimmon, be warned: the astringent varieties, the most common being the heart-shaped Hachiya, should only be eaten when fully ripe and soft as a water balloon. Up until then, their high tannin content makes them inedible. (If you’re impatient, pair an unripe persimmon in a paper bag with an apple or a banana; it should soften up in a day or two.) Cook Hachiyas into a proper pudding if you must, but they’re delightful when simply spooned out of their skins, or pureed and frozen into a make-shift sorbet.
If the threat of puckering sounds unpalatable, stick with a non-astringent variety, like the Fuyu. Fuyus are a lot like apples, crisp, with a kicked-up sweetness, and shaped like squat orange tomatoes. These are fine at any level of ripeness, though the bitter bit bordering the stem hints at the Hachiya’s horrors.
Dried persimmons look like flattened flowers and are a treat to eat as a snack, or chopped up in a spinach salad with slivered almonds. For other ways to preserve persimmons, check out these ways to relish fall fruits all year.
Photo: Katie Kadue
Editor’s note: Updated from November 2010