“Persimmons are an underrated fruit, I feel. With their glorious creamy texture and beautiful star-shaped centre, it almost seems a shame to conceal them with the salty folds of prosciutto….”
-Frankie Unsworth, The New Art of Cooking
I was wandering around supermarkets in Italy, France, The Netherlands and Switzerland last month and I found this, sometimes light orange and sometimes dark, almost red orange fruit which I’d seen before, but never tried.
What fruit was this? Should I know more? Obviously they were popular as they seemed to be everywhere. And indeed, once identified, investigation revealed that sales have risen steeply, sometimes overtaking, in the UK, mango, kiwi and even the ubiquitous avocado.
Persimmons contain twice as much fibre as apples. The main producers are China, Korea and Japan where they often eat them dried as hoshigaki. The fruit has a sort of mixed pear, date and brown sugar taste, and it’s also sometimes known as kaki – a cultivated variety which is being grown to ever-larger sizes.
You can ripen persimmons by putting in paper bag with an apple.
Persimmons lower the density of alcohol in the blood – so get in a supply for 1 January maybe?
The first thing to know about persimmons (scientific name, diospyros) is that there are two main types, astringent and non-astringent.
The astringent types:
The most common astringent type is the Hachiya (acorn-shaped) but there are many others. Ribera del Xúquer persimmons have a PDO denomination and are grown in Spain, in Valencia. They have a very distinct flavour due to the compact soil and mild temperatures. They are orangey-yellow when harvested, but turn bright red as they mature.
These astringent types of persimmon are disgusting unless completely ripe with the sweet jelly-soft flesh almost bursting through the thinning skin. However, they are worth the wait which can be expedited by leaving in sunlight and leaving them in a fruit bowl with other fruit such as apples, pears, and bananas, or wrapping with the other fruit in a paper bag. Why? The other fruit all give off ethylene, a gas which breaks down the cellular walls of the fruit. Once ripe they can be kept in the fridge.
The non-astringent types:
These have a squashed shape a bit like a tomato. Because they have less tannin than the astringent type you can eat them while still firm. The most common type is the Fuyu (aka jiro or Israeli sharon fruit), but there are other specialist types such as the Tsurunoko (aka ‘chocolate persimmon’) which has a dark brown flesh, and the Maru (aka ‘cinnamon persimmon) which has a spicy flavour.
How to eat persimmons:
You don’t need to peel them. The non-astringent type can be eaten like an apple, the ripe astringent type should be cut in half – then you can spoon out the flesh with a teaspoon.
Things to do with persimmons:
- In salads (non-astringent types) – Martha Stewart suggests a watercress and hazelnut salad
- In salads (sweet, astringent types) – mix the sweet persimmon with tart pomegranates and bitter endive
- In salads based on pearl barley, quinoa, job’s tears, or farro
- In pies (non-astringent types)
- To make a fruit tart (astringent types)
- In cakes (non-astringent types)
- In a chocolate bread and butter pudding (astringent types)
- Drizzle with honey and lime juice then grill with mascarpone
- Serve slices, warmed and topped with mozzarella and sprinkled with dry fried sage and chopped dry-fried pecans
- Serve, as you might peaches, or melon, with with bresaola or prosciutto
- Serve halved and roasted astringent types with roast pork (replacing the sweetness of apple sauce) and a mustard-sauce-tossed chopped chard or spinach.
- In granola or muesli (non-astringent types)
- Peel, slice and fry in butter and cinnamon (non-astringent types), or bake, like an apple with brown sugar and cinnamon. Serve either with ice cream
- wrap a rasher of bacon around a quarter of an astringent type and grill or bake – a sort of persimmon on horseback
- using the astringent type, David Lebovitz makes chocolate persimmon muffins
- astringent types are good with duck