Persimmon fruit has the appearance of a tomato, the texture of apricot or plum, and flavors of honey and cinnamon. This Asian fruit is versatile and has a range of health benefits. So, what is a persimmon and what do you do with it? Let’s find out how to eat persimmon fruit with recipe ideas to try.
What is a Persimmon?
Persimmon is an edible fruit that originates from China. The tree belongs to the Genus Diospyros and is deciduous with rigid leaves. Not all species of Diospyros are fruit-bearing and the fruit itself can differ depending on the variety.
By the way, if you’re interested in growing your own persimmon tree, you might like to see our article How to Grow a Persimmon Tree for Delicious Persimmon Fruit.
The oriental persimmon (Diospyros kaki) is the Chinese or Japanese variety and is the most important and well-known. Other varieties include the lotus persimmon (Diospyros lotus) which is known as the date plum.
The fruit is native to southwest Asia and regions of Europe. There is also an American persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), velvet persimmon (Diospyros discolor), and Texas persimmon (Diospyros texana). All of the varieties differ in the color, size, and ripening of the fruit which leads to different flavors and textures.
The persimmon fruit looks like a tomato but is in fact a berry. It has a golden orange-red coloring depending on variety and is typically 2-3 inches in diameter. But they can be bigger or smaller again, depending on the variety.
From here onwards we’re going to focus on the two main types of persimmons which dictate how to eat and cook with the fruit. These are the most common commercial varieties, and distinguishing between them is important. Let’s discuss the fuyu and hachiya persimmons.
The hachiya persimmon is slightly elongated and has a heart shape, with a deep orange skin and dark yellow flesh. They are high in soluble tannins (astringent) which means an unripe hachiya will be bitter, chalky, and very unpleasant. They are rich in flavor and require full ripening before you can eat them.
In comparison, the fuyu persimmon is known as the non-astringent type. They are rounder in shape and lose their tannin content much earlier before they ripen. This means they can be eaten firmer and have a milder flavor. The fruit has a deep orange skin like the hachiya but a light orange flesh.
What Does Persimmon Taste Like?
Persimmons are unique with a rich, sweet, and spicy flavor. Often described as a mango or honey sweetness with a cinnamon or earthy flavor to them. Some claim that a ripe persimmon can even smell like cookie dough!
Fuyu persimmons are the mild variety and have a freshness to them that comes with the firm texture.
The hachiya persimmons pack the flavor as the ripening is required to cure the tannins and remove the astringency. This leaves incredible sweetness and a jelly texture. This makes them harder to eat (more on that soon) but full of complex flavors.
You will know very quickly if you have picked a hachiya persimmon too early. Because the tannins will produce a chalky, bitter taste that will dry your mouth and overpower any pleasant sweetness.
When are Persimmons in Season?
Persimmons are autumnal fruit. They mature in the fall and stay around until early winter. If you are picking persimmons, the timing will depend on the variety of the fruit.
Astringent, hachiya persimmons are best left to ripen on the tree. However, they become quite delicate and are prone to bruising. Not to mention, they are well-loved by birds if they get to them first!
Instead, they can be picked in early fall as long as the fruit is colored and still hard, and then ripened off the tree before eating.
Non-astringent, fuyu persimmons are ready when they have a pink-orange hue to the skin. And this means they are both ripe and edible.
How to Choose a Ripe Persimmon
For hachiya persimmons, you can buy or harvest them still firm and ripen at room temperature. You can do this by popping them in a brown paper bag for a few days until soft to touch. Placing near apples, pears or bananas can also increase the rate of ripening.
The flesh of the fruit will become jelly or pulp-like, and the skin will thin out a lot until it feels like the fruit is about to burst. This means they are ready to eat.
Fuyu varieties can be bought or harvested when still firm but colored. They can be eaten straight away as further ripening does not improve the flavor by much. The tannin content is much lower than in astringent varieties, but some tannins are still present.
So, how do we actually eat them?
How to Eat Persimmons
The best way to eat persimmons is to think of the fuyu type more like an apple, and hachiya like a ripe avocado.
For fuyu persimmons, rinse the skin thoroughly or simply peel it off. It is edible but like a lot of fruits, sometimes eating the skin can be a personal preference. The skin of the fuyu can be slightly thicker and not everyone enjoys the texture.
Since the fruit is still firm, cut in half (through the stem) and then into rounds or wedges. The fuyu flavor does not benefit from overripening. So the firmness makes these an easier variety to eat by itself, with a slight crunch which gives them an exciting texture.
For hachiya persimmons, cut in half and scoop out the flesh using a spoon. The mushy flesh will be difficult to cut through without making a mess, so this method is the best way to eat a hachiya.
They will be much richer, sweeter and bolder in comparison to their fuyu counterparts. The skin will be thinner and therefore it can be eaten, but as the inside of the fruit is so gelatinous, trying to eat this fruit like an apple might end up in a big mess.
Hoshigaki – the Art of Drying Persimmoms
In Japan it is common to air dry hachiya persimmons, known as hoshigaki. When still firm, the persimmon fruit is peeled and hung for a period of 6 weeks until a natural sugar bloom forms on the outside of the fruit.
The result is a chewy, rich delicacy that is similar to a date but a lot more complicated in flavor. They become dark, leathery, and have a white sugar coating on the outside. They are enjoyed with green tea and paired with breads and aged cheese.
Fuyu persimmons can also be oven-dried which produces a fruit leather. But that approach doesn’t sound quite as delicious as the first
If you would like to try your hand at drying your own persimmon for Hoshigaki, you can have a look at one of the following methods:
How To Make Hoshigaki At Home – from Edible Brooklyn.
Drying Persimmons – from Drying All Foods. For details on oven drying persimmons and making hoshigaki.
Health Benefits of Persimmons
Persimmons are loaded with nutrients and are a low-calorie fruit option. They contain half the recommended dietary intake of Vitamin A, as well as containing B vitamins, manganese, folate, and magnesium.
Persimmon fruit is packed full of antioxidants and vitamin C, meaning they are a great addition to the diet. And some health professionals reckon they may even be healthier than eating an apple a day. They have been placed in with acai and bananas and called a superfruit.
However, there is so much more to persimmons than just eating them by themselves. And their interesting flavor combination can add something unique to recipes.
Recipe Ideas using Persimmon
The firmness of the fuyu persimmon makes them a versatile addition to a lot of recipes. They can be used similar to apples or pomegranate in salads, or to sweeten canapes or a charcuterie board. The rich sweetness of the hachiya makes them great for baking, sauces, and desserts.
Here are some great suggestions for eating persimmons to take full advantage of their rich, sweet, and spiced flavor.
Persimmon Prosciutto Cheese Bites – from Flavor and Savor. This is a simple appetizer you can make with persimmons.
Roasted Radicchio & Persimmon Salad – from Proportional Plate. An exciting salad using fuyu persimmons.
Fuyu Persimmons and Goat Cheese Pasta – from Allways Delicious.
Pork with Persimmons and Mustard Greens – from Martha Stewart. Persimmons add a delicious twist to roast pork.
Stuffed Persimmons with Lentils (Savory) – from Healing Tomato. This recipe is a play on the stuffed tomato using persimmons instead.
Easy Persimmon Crumble Pie – from Wandercooks. A simple yet delicious way to use fuyu persimmons in a sweet dessert.
Persimmon & Vanilla Ricotta Dessert – from End of the Fork. A simple and delicious dessert you and use either fuyu or haychia persimmons.
Persimmon Cake with Cream Cheese Icing – from Epic Curious. This cake uses haychia persimmons in the form of persimmon puree.
Easy Persimmon Jam Recipe – from Sweet and Savory Meals. An easy jam using either haychia or fuyu persimmons and using only 4 ingredients.
Persimmon fruit is a great alternative for apple, pumpkin, plum, or apricot. So try using it in a variety of ways. And once you know how to choose the best variety of persimmon for eating and cooking with, you may just find your next favorite flavor combination or even your new favorite fruit!
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