My Persimmon Problem

by Sarah Henry on October 27, 2009 · 23 comments

in baking,fruit,recipes,salads

Photo by Flickr user mbgrigby used under the Creative Commons license.

So it’s orientation time for the sixth graders, a sweet and chatty bunch, at the Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley, where I volunteer each week.

Last Friday, head kitchen teacher Esther Cook (yes, Ms. Cook is her real name) began by engaging the students in a food memory exercise.  As we mingled around the tables the talk turned to unusual fruits or vegetables we’ve tasted and one of the girls mentioned persimmons.

I resisted the urge to make a face. The very same day The Lemon Lady suggested a post on this seasonal fruit and I laughed to myself because, dear readers, I have a little persimmon problem.

Perhaps one of the biggest produce pushers on the planet, I don’t much care for this prolific fall fruit. In my kitchen, right near the beloved Wedgewood, hangs this gorgeous image of persimmons by my talented friend, artist Emily Payne.  I adore the print, and yet if I had to pick a fruit to munch on, persimmons would never make it on the list. Until now.

Esther joked that maybe I’d never eaten a persimmon at “just the right minute.” So, with that in mind, I decided it was time to get over my persimmon phobia.  I welcome all and any assistance in this matter. I suspect my first mistake is not eating this fruit at, well, just the right minute.

First, some research. Here’s what I learned:

Known to ancient Greeks as the fruit of the gods, two varieties of persimmons are commonly available in the U.S. Hachiya, originally from China, are bright orange globes that taste awfully astringent when not fully ripe, due to the high levels of tannin in the fruit.

They absolutely need to be soft and squishy before you even think about biting into one or you’ll pucker up and the bitterness could put you off persimmons for life. Trust me on this one.

A ripe Hachiya should feel a little like a water balloon, I’m told. Use the fruit within a few days, at most, of prime ripeness or the pulp will get too mushy. Okay, so this is a high maintenance kind of fruit; vigilance is called for. Got that?

(Conversely, if you want to speed up the ripening process, put a persimmon in a bag with an apple or banana. Or freeze for 24 hours and then use as you would a perfectly ripe persimmon.) When properly ripe, persimmon has been described as apricot-like, plum, or even pumpkin-esque in taste. The sweet pulp from ripe Hachiya persimmons is best used as a puree in cookies, cakes, and puddings.

The other kind of common persimmon Fuyu, are squatter, more tomato-like in appearance and a duller orange in color. This variety is supposed to be eaten when firm and crunchy, much like an apple, peeling and slicing recommended, but optional. First grown in Japan, Fuyu work well in salads, where they add crispness to the mix.  Both kinds are a good source of vitamins A & C and loaded with fiber.

During a quick spin around my friendly neighborhood farmers’ market I find the folks at Blossom Bluff Orchards, who seem super persimmon savvy. I especially appreciate the warning sign in front of the bins of Hachiyas. With the vendor’s help, I select a large, firm, blemish-free Hachiya that should be ready to eat in a couple of weeks.  Stay tuned.

The two giant Fuyu persimmons I pick are good to go now, although a gaggle of shoppers agree that if they’re just a tad on the soft side you’re rewarded with a little more sweetness. I sampled some and while I’d still prefer an apple or pear I can appreciate how they’d add a nice crunch to a green salad. So one variety back on the will-eat list.

Since we’re coming up to peak persimmon time, here are some recipes that showcase persimmons by folks who know what to do with this fruit:

Persimmon Pudding Cake from Romney Steele’s new book My Nepenthe

Avocado, Citrus, Jicama Salad with Persimmon Dressing courtesy of Capay Valley, California organic growers Farm Fresh to You

James Beard’s Persimmon Bread, adapted by David Lebovitz, author of The Sweet Life in Paris

Steamed Persimmon Pudding with Silky Persimmon Puree by Deborah Madison, from Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America’s Farmers’ Markets

Persimmon Cookies, from Elise Bauer at Simply Recipes

Salad of Frisee, Radicchio, Pears, Pomegranate and Persimmons, courtesy of Joanne Weir for The Food Network

Anyone out there care to weigh in on other ways to enjoy this produce?


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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

david October 28, 2009 at 12:10 am

yes, do try that recipe for Persimmon Bread. It’s terrific!

Reply

Sarah Henry December 3, 2009 at 5:10 pm

I did. And it is. Thanks for sharing, David.

Reply

Deborah Madison October 28, 2009 at 6:55 am

Try the Fuyus in a salad with roasted hazelnuts and hazelnut oil and a mildly bitter green, like Belgian endive. Also, you can let them get soft, then use the pulp in persimmon puddings, persimmon bars, or wherever else pulp is called for. And whatever you do, make a persimmon pudding!

As we speak, a California friend is shipping me a box of persimmons. My persimmon problem is that I can’t possibly get enough
of them!

Reply

Sarah Henry December 3, 2009 at 5:11 pm

Hi Deborah,

Love the hazelnut salad idea. On the must-try list. Thanks for the suggestions.

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MP October 28, 2009 at 7:08 am

Like you, not a big fan of persimmons. But, yes,the persimmon bread is delish. There was also a persimmon salad recipe in last year’s BUSD school lunch calender.

Emily’s print is beautiful!

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Sarah Henry December 3, 2009 at 5:13 pm

Yes, Em’s work is just lovely, isn’t it? And you can check out more of her work at an SFMOMA artists gallery holiday show:
http://www.sfmoma.org/pages/artists_gallery

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Romney Steele October 28, 2009 at 9:23 am

Thanks for the mention Sarah, and link to my recipe.

A favorite way to enjoy Fuyu persimmons around my house, is to simply slice them and squeeze with a little lemon juice. My daughter eats them like an apple-meaning out of hand and with a big bite.

Nani

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Sarah Henry December 3, 2009 at 5:14 pm

Thanks for the tip, Nani, which I did try. And yet if there’s an apple, pear and persimmon in the fruit bowl I’ll reach for the first two every time.

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Connie October 28, 2009 at 2:35 pm

Hi Sarah — A friend sent me this recipe for Persimmon Pudding, and he says it’s delicious, although I haven’t tried it yet.

A confession: I’ve never eaten a persimmon, but now I intend to!

PERSIMMON PUDDING

1 cup sugar
1/2 cube melted butter
1 cup sifted flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup persimmon pulp (usually 3 or 4 ripe persimmons)
if not ripe, put in freezer overnight
2 eggs (slightly beaten)
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. warm water
3 Tbs. brandy
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup seedless raisins

1. Put persimmons in a blender, skins and all (minus stems and black spots); add to pulp soda dissolved in the warm water, brandy and vanilla. Set aside.

2. Resift flour with the salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add sugar and melted butter. Add dry ingredients to pulp, then both eggs and then raisins.

3. Boil water in a large pot and place ingredients in a buttered pudding mold (with cover), and cover mold 2/3 to 3/4 of the way with water.

4. Reduce heat and steam for 2 1/2 hours. (It will be a dark brown color when ready to eat.)

5. Serve with hard sauce. (You may want to flame at the table with brandy.)

Reply

Sarah Henry December 3, 2009 at 5:14 pm

Thanks, Connie. This sounds like a perfect holiday dessert. Have you tried a persimmon this season?

Reply

Libby October 28, 2009 at 3:51 pm

I have two huge persimmon trees in the backyard (Sarah have you noticed them? You’ve probably avoided them!) and I have to admit that the fruit are most appreciated by the visiting fruit bats.

Certainly an acquired taste! But with the help of these recipe links, I might get a bit adventurous next season!

Thanks!

Reply

Sarah Henry December 3, 2009 at 5:16 pm

Hi Libs,

Ah, the ol’ Aussie fruit bats…thanks for the memory. -S

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Melanie Haiken October 28, 2009 at 7:54 pm

Love this post!

I had the puckery persimmon experience in childhood (persimmon trees grew all over Healdsburg, where my dad lived) and didn’t try them again for a decade.

Then a year or two ago I discovered Fuyus and a relationship was born. Love them, just to eat plain. These recipes do look tasty, though, at least the lower-maintenance ones!

Reply

Sarah Henry December 3, 2009 at 5:17 pm

Hi Melanie,

Scared you off for a decade, hey? Good for you for giving the (ripe) persimmon another chance.

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Lele October 29, 2009 at 2:47 pm

I’ve had two persimmons in my fruit bowl for over a week and I have to keep waiiiiiiiiiiiting and waiiiiiiiiiiiting. I don’t think they’re a good fruit for impatient people.

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Sarah Henry December 3, 2009 at 5:19 pm

Lele,

I hear you. Spent weeks waiting for my Hachiya to ripen and, well, let’s just say I left it a tad too long…hello compost.

Reply

anothermama October 30, 2009 at 10:52 am

Can’t wait for you to take on loquats and kumquats!

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Sarah Henry October 30, 2009 at 12:04 pm

Thanks to Deborah and Connie for additional recipe ideas and to David and Margaret for encouragement on the persimmon bread front.

As for anothermama’s comment about loquats…here’s what I had to say about that fruit in an earlier post on fruit foraging:

“Does anyone want the load of loquats that make a huge mess once they fall from the tree out front and strip the paint off my car? I’ve thought of them as a nuisance, squirrel fodder at best, but Asiya Wadud writes that this unfamiliar fruit makes some mighty fine chutney, jelly, or jam.”

You can read the entire post here: http://lettuceeatkale.wordpress.com/2009/07/08/food-foraging-101/

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Anna November 1, 2009 at 8:09 pm

Food Bank. Local food pantry, homeless shelter! They would love them, I guarantee it. It will make the world a better place if each of us just picked a small bag for donation. Well…by now…you know my story! :)

Yes, Asiya Wadud is another wonderful human being – a fruit forager! I love her story too.

http://www.thelemonlady.blogspot.com – ideas about fruit harvesting and local pantries.
http://www.cafoodbanks.org/ – to locate food banks in California

Reply

Dustin Whittman March 7, 2010 at 1:38 am

Good post, thanks a lot!

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