Adam Calder, Wheatsfield Produce Manager
A fresh persimmon is one of winter’s lesser known treats, and with a little bit of foreknowledge one can incorporate persimmons into their winter celebrations.
Persimmons are a member of the genus Diospyros, which in ancient Greece translated loosely to “divine fruit.” They are native to China, but are grown in Asia and the United States as well. The word “persimmon” come from the Algonquian language, and means “a dry fruit.”
pictured: fuyu persimmons
It is odd that “persimmon” means “a dry fruit,” as anyone who has ever eaten a ripe persimmon knows they are in fact juicy, succulent gems. There are two varieties commonly sold in the United States, Fuyu and Hachiya, and they both do start out rather firm and dry, so perhaps this is where the name comes from.
Fuyu’s are flat, and Hachiya are more acorn-shaped. The Fuyu can be eaten at any stage of ripeness, be it firm and dry or soft and juicy. They are delicious at any stage, although they do get sweeter as they get softer.
This fantastic fruit can be eaten whole, just like an apple. The Hachiyas should first be allowed to ripen to a soft, jelly like consistency before they are eaten. This seems counter-intuitive and flies in the face of everything we’ve ever been taught about selecting fruit, but trust me; you do not want to eat an under-ripe Hachiya. In their unripe stage, they are full of tannins and therefore incredibly astringent. A bite of an unripe Hachiya will make your mouth implode into an arid wasteland of crippled taste buds, so make sure you let it get soft and juicy first!
Persimmons ripen rapidly at room temperature, so store them in a refrigerator until a couple of days before you want to eat or cook with them. They will continue to ripen in your refrigerator, but at a greatly reduced rate. If you find they have become soft, squishy and ripe and you still are not ready to use them, then remove the stem of the plant and then toss the whole fruit, peel and all, into a blender, food processor or food mill and then put the puree in a ziplock bag or other freezer safe container and freeze until needed.
Persimmons have been used in this country to make a special holiday dish, persimmon pudding, since the 1800’s, when persimmon trees were first introduced to the United States. If you are looking to start a “new” holiday tradition, then try out this recipe from the mid-1800’s: