What Is a Persimmon — And How Exactly Do I Eat It?
Although pumpkins get all the glamour during fall, there’s another round orange fruit that deserves your attention during harvest season: the persimmon. Ripe persimmons are incredibly sweet, and taste great when eaten as a snack. You can also cook with them.
In this article, we’ll get to know this often perplexing fruit, including what persimmons taste like, the difference between the two most common Asian varieties (Fuyu and Hachiya), and how to eat them.
What Is a Persimmon?
Persimmons are a type of tree fruit that is native to East Asia. The fruit thrives in warm climates with long growing seasons. Persimmons aren’t as common in the United States as other imported or U.S.-grown fruits, but an increasing number of American fruit farmers are growing persimmons native to the land that became the United States. American persimmons now thrive in many parts of the country, “from Boston to all points south,” says Buzz Ferver, who’s growing persimmons on his fruit farm, Perfect Circle, in Vermont (yep, Vermont!).
What Do Persimmons Taste Like?
Although many fans of persimmons find it hard to describe their flavor, Ferver notes that ripe persimmons taste “incredibly sweet,” with a texture of jam or jelly. They’ve also been described as “honey-like,” with a milky, creamy quality.
It may help to imagine the Latin word for persimmon: diospyros, which means “food of the gods.” Variety and ripeness matter here: An underripe persimmon is quite astringent, and will cause a “puckering” sensation in your mouth.
There are hundreds of types of persimmons — and more being cultivated. However, two kinds of Asian persimmon — Fuyu and Hachiya — are most common.
Fuyu persimmons are an Asian variety of persimmon. They are short and round, with a shape similar to an apple. They turn deep orange when they are ripe. If your grocery store Fuyus are pale, you can leave them on the counter for a few days to ripen. Unlike Hachiyas, Fuyu persimmons can be eaten when firm — but they will get sweeter the longer they sit and the more deeply colored they get.
Hachiya persimmons are longer and larger than Fuyus, with a tapered bottom (like a giant acorn). When they’re truly ripe — tender at the touch and easily bruised — these persimmons are incredibly sweet and luscious with a custard-like texture. On the other end of the spectrum, eat them underripe and you’ll encounter an unappealingly astringent flavor.
Other Types of Persimmons
If you’re on the hunt for American persimmons, you may have success finding a variety called Early Golden, which was one of the first cultivated persimmons in the States. There are now many hybrid varieties that combine American stock with Asian (Nikita’s Gift is a particularly luscious one that tastes great frozen).
When Are Persimmons in Season?
In the U.S., persimmons begin ripening in mid-September. American-grown persimmons are so juicy and tender that they often fall from the trees — that is how farmers know they’re ready to eat. Because they’re so delicate, American persimmons can’t be shipped. Look for American-grown persimmons at farmers markets in the late fall months. (Ferver suggests seeking farmers who also sell apples, pawpaws, and chestnuts: If you see those, you’re probably talking to a persimmon farmer.)
Imported persimmons are often available year-round, but they tend to make a showy appearance on grocery store shelves during the fall and early months of winter. Thanks to a global economy (and shipping logistics!), persimmons grown throughout the world can be transported to the States year-round. Imported persimmons may take a long time to ripen. Like tomatoes that are picked green and ripen slowly, persimmons are harvested early to avoid spoiling during the journey.
Where to Buy Persimmons
Can You Eat Persimmon Skin?
It depends on the persimmon variety and your own preferences. To avoid a mishap, be sure to know which variety you’re eating and whether the skin is edible (or inedible).
- Fuyu Persimmons: Their skin is entirely edible, and provides a nutritional boost of added fiber. Leave the skin on for snacking and cooking. However, you can peel them if you like a more tender texture. Use a sharp veggie peeler or paring knife.
- Hachiya Persimmons: Do not eat the skin from Hachiya persimmons, as they have a bitter taste. Instead, scoop out the inner flesh and discard the skin when done.
How to Eat a Fuyu Persimmon
Fuyu persimmons can be eaten just like an apple or plum — simple bite into it and enjoy a tasty snack. (Be sure to rinse it first.) Discard or compost the leaves and stem when you’re finished. Fuyu persimmons are also good for recipes that call for sliced or chopped fruit, or that require the fruit to keep its shape. To cut, you’ll need a sharp paring knife and sturdy cutting board.
1. Rinse and peel (if desired).
The skin is entirely edible, but for a more tender texture, you can peel it as you would an apple.
2. Cut off the leaves and stem.
Use a paring knife to cut off the leaves and stem. Cut a full circle around the stem, angling your knife in slightly, as if you were hulling a strawberry top. Gently pull up and remove the core, along with the leafy top.
3. Slice lengthwise.
Slice the fruit lengthwise from bottom to tip, so you have two halves. Typically, persimmon trees produce seedless fruit, so there is no need to remove a seedy center. However, if you do encounter a seed or two, simply discard it.
4. Cut into wedges, chunks, or slices.
If you’re planning on using a Fuyu persimmon in a salad, grain bowl, or as dessert, you can cut it up into wedges, slices, or chunks — just like an apple. You can also sauté cut persimmon with butter and seasonings, toss them in a roasting pan with pork or chicken, simmer them with morning porridges, or bake them into a pie (to name a few examples)!
How to Eat a Hachiya Persimmon
Hachiya persimmons are borderline-inedible when unripe, so be sure yours is soft and tender; it’s ideal to err on the mushy side. Because they’re are so gelatinous and pudding-like when fully ripe, it’s best to treat them as a custard and scoop out the inner flesh before eating.
1. Rinse and remove leaves.
As with Fuyus, rinse Hachiya persimmons, then remove their stem and leaves.
2. Slice lengthwise and scoop out flesh.
Then slice them lengthwise (like an avocado) and scoop out the tender inner flesh (again, like an avocado) with a small spoon.
3. Shortcut: Scoop out the flesh from the top.
If you prefer a more efficient method of eating a Hachiya persimmon, you can simply slice off the top and spoon it out directly from the fruit. Enjoy as a snack, or use in recipes that call for puréed fruit, like quick breads and cakes. It’s also excellent when blended into smoothies or yogurt bowls.
Can You Eat Persimmons Raw?
Yes! As noted above, you can eat persimmons raw. The key thing to remember with eating raw persimmons is to check for ripeness level. An under ripe persimmon is not very tasty.
You can also eat frozen persimmons. To freeze them, Ferver suggests just putting the whole persimmon in the freezer. You can let it thaw and eat it later, or enjoy it as a frozen treat.
Can You Eat Persimmon Seeds?
You won’t always find seeds inside of persimmons — this is because not all species of persimmon trees produce fruit with seeds. Although if you do have seeds in your persimmon, you can simply remove them like you would with apple seeds. (Fun fact: Persimmons that have seeds came from a female persimmon tree.)
The green leafy top of a persimmon is edible, too. It’s often steeped into a tea, and is sometimes used in cooking. Persimmon leaves are slightly bitter.