First persimmons of the season

I enjoyed my first fuyu persimmon of the season just last week. I actually added it as an ingredient in a green leafy salad. Their crunchiness and sweetness balance nicely with the softness of lettuce as well as the tartness of the citrus dressing I made. 

I also love hachiya persimmons, which taste like honey with an intricate hint of mango, nectarine, apricot and honeydew melon. Ancient Greeks called them the "fruit of the gods" or "divine fruit." And they do taste divine.

Like pumpkins, persimmons have a beautiful bright but deep orange color. They're a true berry and are in season from October to December. Many local farmer's markets sell persimmons abundantly during this time. 

Though there used to be hundreds of persimmon varieties, the most common ones sold in the U.S. are the Hachiya and the Fuyu. I enjoy both kinds but the former is my favorite. The Fuyus are usually eaten hard, since they're not astringent. You can cut them into wedges like an apple (with peel and all) but they can also be eaten when they're soft. 

Hachiyas, on the other hand, must be eaten soft. When Hachiyas are hard, it means they’re unripe and therefore astringent. Never try to eat a hard Hachiya. You would be unpleasantly surprised by an extreme feeling of dryness, bitterness and numbness in your mouth because of the high levels of tannins. 

Persimmons are underappreciated in the United States, especially the Fuyu variety. I believe the reason is that they have what you could call a "slimy" and “mushy” texture. People who didn't grow up eating tropical fruit with such characteristics can have a hard time acquiring the taste. 

Hachiyas are usually sold unripe or hard, but they'll eventually ripen (in one to three weeks). If your patience is being tried, place the hard Hachiyas in paper bag with apples or bananas. These release ethylene gas, which speed up the ripening process. They'll get very soft and delicate to handle (like a balloon filled with water). 

Ripe Hachiyas look almost translucent. And when you cut one in half, it will expose the jelly-like flesh, which is very slick -- sort of like custard. Select Hachiyas that have a deep orange color with beautiful glossy skin. The black color patches some may have are just sun spots -- they’re okay to eat. I like to cut them in half crosswise and simply scoop out the inside with a spoon. Hachiyas are great for adding to dressings and baked goods, including cakes and fruit breads. Fully ripe Hachiyas should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer for later use in baking, or for eating frozen like a sorbet. 

Fuyu persimmons have the shape of regular tomatoes and have a golden orange color. The fuyu can be eaten like an apple with its skin, but the calyx or top must be removed. If you like fruit in your salads, fuyus are great for that. I also love them in fruit salads. They really add wonderful sweetness. 

Whether you prefer the fuyus or the hachiyas, these two persimmon varieties each have their own wonderful qualities and unique nutrients to offer. The soft hachiya is lower in calories and higher in vitamin C. But the fuyus offer more potassium, calcium and protein. The moral of the story: Learn to enjoy both of them.


Hachiya persimmons.

Hachiya persimmons.