Around the holidays we start seeing some traditional fruits, like cranberries and those little mandarin oranges that everyone likes. You may also come across a gorgeous orange fruit a little bigger than those mandarins, called a persimmon.Now, you may be an old pro with persimmons, or you may be one of the many who have never even tried one.
I hope you will try one.
There are two common varieties of persimmon, the squat Fuyu and the longer, pointed Hachiya. Their names are a dead giveaway for their origins, as the commonly eaten persimmons originated in China and spread to Japan, and didn’t make it to the US til the 1850’s. There is a variety of persimmon that is native to the US, it grows in the Eastern States and is traditionally eaten in a steamed pudding.
But, the ones that come to a store near you will probably be Fuyus and Hachiyas.
The persimmon is a unique fruit, often described as astringent or tannic, and it can be a pucker-inducing experience if you bite into one that has not fully ripened. Seriously, an unripe persimmon will make your mouth numb, it is so potently drying and bitter. But once it’s ripe, that same fruit is a sugar bomb, creamy and sweeter than many fruits.
I sometimes think that the ripening factor is why they have not caught on in all US households, but really, they are no more difficult than bananas.
Yes, like a banana, the persimmon should just be left to sit on the counter or windowsill until it is ready to eat. Unlike the banana, it can take a week or more, so don’t rush it. Wait until it is deep orange, soft and a little puckered, but don’t let it fully collapse. Buy a few and keep an eye on them. They will make a transformation from hard and astringent to butter soft and sweet. It’s really amazing.
And why, you may ask, should I learn to eat this odd, sunset colored little fruit? Well, like all fruits, it is darn good for you. The deep orange is a tip off that is has loads of carotene and other antioxidants. Vitamin C, B vitamins, minerals, its a real winner. But the main thing is, its delicious and really beautiful.
And really, aren’t you getting bored with bananas? Persimmons are great for all sorts of fruity uses, from muffins and scones to chutney and jam. The soft, sweet flesh is great in salads, cookies, you name it.
I made this lovely persimmon and cranberry chutney, it took about 15 minutes, start to finish.
Cranberry Persimmon Chutney
Makes about a cup
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup cranberries
1 medium Fuyu persimmon, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup agave syrup
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Put the spices in a small saucepan and dry toast over medium high heat until fragrant. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil, then reduce to low and cook, stirring often, until thick.
I had one left, so I had it for breakfast. I let it ripen up, then sliced it in wedges and stripped off the thin peels. I cooked up my quinoa breakfast porridge with a handful of dried cranberries, then doused it with vanilla almond milk and scattered the persimmon wedges on top. It was so pretty I could hardly stand it.