A Lesson in Persimmons

In preparation for Thanksgiving, allow me to sing the praises of persimmons. Bright orange persimmons are about the last fruit to ripen. There are two main types of persimmons, and I have both in my yard: fuya and hachiya. Persimmons come from China originally but the varieties we find in California are from Japan.

The fuya persimmon (first, below) is round, more like an apple, while the hachiya is distinctively acorn-shaped (second, below). The hachiya persimmon is more familiar to people, and the trees are also more commonly planted. So let’s focus on the fuya first.

The fuya, which is sweet much like an apple or not-quite-ripe pear, can be eaten as a snack. However, it’s best used sliced or diced in salads. You don’t need to peel them. Fuyas are ripe now, while the hachiya ripen much later; hachiya need to be very soft and putting them in a bag helps to force ripening. When hachiya are abundant, as they seem to be each year, they can break the limbs of the tree with their weight.

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Hachiya persimmons are very astringent – your mouth will be unusable after taking a bite. This may be the reason persimmons have an unpleasant reputation. Jus don’t eat them off the tree. Typically, this kind of persimmon is turned into pulp and then used to make a sweet bread or a pudding. I saw a recipe for a persimmon sorbet, which I’ll have to try, maybe for the Christmas holidays.