If you haven’t tried a persimmon yet, you’re missing out. It takes a little light reading to learn how to eat a persimmon and add it to your pantry’s must-have list.
Appearing in the winter within the produce department, persimmons baffle even people who are familiar with self-sustaining living. It looks like an oxheart or a squat heirloom tomato but is a sweet fruit with large seeds. Technically, persimmons are berries by botanical definition. They have several shapes and varieties that can be used for culinary or medicinal purposes. And each year, these fruits exchange hands several times because few people actually know how to eat a persimmon.
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Though the name is derived from an Algonquin term meaning “a dry fruit,” persimmons are found around the world. They range in size from a half-inch to four inches and not all varieties are edible. American persimmons are traditionally eaten steamed in a pudding, and the tree’s timber is sometimes used in the same way that ebony would be. Black persimmons are native to Mexico; the Mabolo fruit of the Philippines is bright red. Indian Persimmons of West Bengal, a small green fruit which turns yellow when ripe, is used in folk medicine.
Fuyu and Hachiya persimmons, the most common, originate in Asia. They glow brilliant orange with the calyxes still attached. Often sold side by side, they can be difficult to distinguish if you’re not experienced with either variety. Identification is important because how to eat a persimmon differs with each type.
Hachiya persimmons, acorn-shaped with a pointed bottom, are astringent before they are extremely ripe. If you taste a raw, unripe Hachiya you will feel a drying sensation in your mouth. Wait until they are dark orange or red and very soft. After that, eat them within a few days. Scoop out the jellylike insides and use them for puddings, smoothies, or breads.
Flattened or pumpkin-shaped, Fuyu persimmons can be eaten either firm or soft. They are sugary sweet, with fibrous skins that are bitten into with a satisfying crunch. The insides glow more brilliantly than the skins. Slice fresh Fuyu persimmons atop salads or peel and chop for stir-fries or pasta dishes. Scoop out insides and puree into smoothies.
Use either Fuyu or Hachiya types but be sure they are very ripe and soft. Puree peeled, seeded fruit. Mix one cup persimmon pulp with two eggs, a half-cup vegetable oil, and three-quarters cup sugar. In another bowl, stir together a cup and a half of flour, a half-teaspoon salt, a teaspoon cinnamon, and a teaspoon baking soda. Mix in one cup raisins, nuts, or a mixture of the two. Fold all ingredients together the pour into a greased, floured pan and bake at 325 degrees for 75 minutes.
Shrimp and Persimmon Kebabs with Garlic Butter
Sweetness and pungency intermingle with this healthy entrée. Soak wooden skewers for at least a half hour before cooking. Peel and de-vein four or five shrimp per kebab. Peel and chop one firm Fuyu persimmon into one-inch cubes. Slide shrimp and persimmon chunks onto skewers, alternating with pieces of sweet onion and red bell pepper. In a small microwaveable dish, melt butter. Press in one clove garlic. Cook skewers on a grill, a frying pan, or inside an oven heated to 450 degrees until shrimp is pink all the way through, basting a few times with garlic butter. Serve beside freshly baked no-knead artisan bread.
Peach and Persimmon Lassi
This variation of an Indian drink is a cooling complement to spicy entrees. Scoop out the soft insides from two ripe Fuyu or Hachiya persimmons. Add to a blender with one peeled peach, stone removed, or one cup frozen sliced peaches. Add one cup plain yogurt, one-fourth cup white sugar, one cup water, and a sprinkle of ground cardamom. Puree until foamy. Serve sprinkled with chopped pistachios, if desired.
Most fruit can be cooked down into jams. When you taste persimmons or see the bright orange puree, you might assume you can do the same. But unlike a pomegranate jelly recipe prepared within the same season, persimmons don’t hold up well to much cooking other than baking.
Freeze the fruit then thaw when you have time to research how to eat a persimmon. Peel soft-ripe persimmons and remove any seeds. Puree then add in fresh lemon juice or a little citric acid to preserve color. No added sugar is necessary at this time. Pack puree into freezer-safe containers, leaving a little head space if using rigid bowls, then seal and freeze.
Make fruit leather by pureeing the pulp of ripe Fuyu or Hachiya persimmons. Mix in lemon juice and sugar, if desired. Spread onto the tray insert of a food dehydrator. Or line a cookie sheet with waxed paper and bake at 200 degrees for two to three hours.
Dehydrate by cutting quarter-inch-thin slices of firm Fuyu or soft Hachiya persimmons. Carefully slice away peels. Dry in an oven or dehydrator for fourteen to 18 hours, until slices are brown and soft but not sticky.
Make candied persimmons by syrup-blanching prior to drying. Mix one cup sugar, one cup corn syrup, and two cups water. Bring to a boil then add a pound of peeled, sliced fruit and simmer for ten minutes. Remove from heat and let sit in syrup for about a half hour then carefully remove fruit and rinse excess syrup off and dry as described above.
The next time you see this beautiful orange fruit in grocery stores, or someone gives you a bag of surplus, share with them how to eat a persimmon and enjoy this sweet treat together.