Persimmons: Food for the Gods

by Bri on November 26, 2007

Ripe Hachyia

Hachiya persimmon in all it’s blissful luscious eat-with-a-spoon ripeness.

I inherited my great love of hachiya persimmons from my dad. I have many fond memories of slurping their fall-apart ripe ambrosia with him as a kid. I know I talk often about my favorite things, and you must say to yourself, is EVERYthing her FAVORITE thing?

The answer is no…but there are a lot of them. Marc and I have a pet peeve about pickyness, (seriously we’ve had many a conversation about it, and smugly congratulate ourselves for our lack of it) and Marc recently came up with a new theory. We eat a varied diet, rich with many flavors, colors, textures, and aromas. So, if you are super picky, you must not be enjoying life as much because you have that many fewer things to enjoy. What a miserable existence! So, in the interest of promoting yet another of my favorite things, I’d like to give a little lesson on persimmons, which are loading local trees these days.

First of all, their botanical name is Diospyros, meaning “food for the gods”. Seriously, need I say more? I guess I will since I know more people are coming around to them, and I thought we’d get to know them better. They are native to China, and eventually made their way through Asia, and to the Western US in the 1800s. The three varieties I’m most familiar with are Hachiya, Fuyu and Amagaki.

Three varieties of persimmons

Fuyu front right, Amagaki front left, and three stages of ripe Hachiyas in the back.

Hachiyas are far and away my favorite, for their sweet jam-consistency pulp that slips over your tongue like nothing I’ve ever encountered. Once they start to ripen, they are quite delicate, and don’t transport well. So, you’ll usually have to buy them rather rock hard, (unless you are lucky enough to make friends with a persimmon tree owner). I struck gold when I lived in LA and frequented the Wednesday Santa Monica farmers market. This time every year a woman sells small boxes of 6 or 8 lusciously ready-to-eat persimmons and usually sells out in the first hour or two. What a treat! I would devour 2 or 3 of those deep orange acorn-shaped fruit the first day. Now, when I go to the farmers market in Santa Rosa, I just always ask the grower if he has any soft ones he can sell me.

Hachyia Watercolor 1919

I saw this watercolor from 1919 on Wikipedia, and thought it was just such a cool representation of a Hachiya.

Hachiyas are an “astringent” variety of persimmon, meaning you have to wait until it’s incredibly soft and translucent to eat it. Seriously, if you think it’s ripe, wait another two days. The experience of eating an unripe hachiya persimmon is so unpleasant, it is the sheer antithesis of the bliss of a ripe one. And that’s saying a lot. Honestly, I wish I had words to describe the ass-puckeringly awful “astringent” experience on your tongue, but I don’t. So, really, wait for it to ripen. It’s worth it.

3 stages of ripeness Persimmon

Three stages of persimmon ripeness. Far right, rock hard, opaque orange. Middle, translucent deeper orange. Far left, fall apart, ugly-ripe.

The other ubiquitous persimmon (although inferior, in my opinion), is the fuyu. Fuyus are short and squat, sort of pumpkin-shaped. They are a non-astringent variety, so you eat them at about the ripeness of a pear…not rock hard, but not soft either. They are tasty sliced into a fruit salad with pomegranate seeds and apple, with a honey lemon dressing. I just so strongly associate persimmons with hachiyas, that I sometimes get disappointed by fuyus. I know it’s illogical, so I guess I just have to get over it, and think of them as another fruit entirely.

The newest variety of persimmon I’ve encountered, is a recent hybrid called amagaki. Twin Peaks farm near Sacramento, CA spent 40 years developing this exotic light orange fruit. It’s as if the star quarterback was studded out to the head cheerleader and they had a love child. It’s another non-astringent variety, and is eaten crisp to slightly soft. Quite delicious in it’s own right, but, like I said, the hachiya is unparalleled in my mind. But, if you can get your hands on an amagaki, they really are a treat, and quite unusual.

This concludes our little lesson on my favorite autumn fruit. Phew…it’s a good thing cherry season is early summer, figs are in season in late summer, winter is all about citrus, and cherimoyas are a spring fruit, otherwise I’d have to choose. Ah, the wisdom of nature.

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

kalva November 26, 2007 at 1:02 pm

Wow awesome.. it is certainly the food for the gods!!

Bri November 26, 2007 at 6:33 pm

Kalva – Thanks! Yummy.

Patricia Scarpin November 27, 2007 at 5:51 am

With so many delicious things around it’s really hard to narrow down our favorite food list, Bri – I can totally relate to that! 🙂

I love persimmons, haven’t had any in ages!

Bri November 27, 2007 at 12:22 pm

Patricia – So true…so true. I suppose persimmons need a cooler climate than you probably have. But you must have lots of more tropical fruits to enjoy. Thanks for stopping by!

cookiecrumb November 27, 2007 at 6:45 pm

“I wish I had words to describe…”

“ass-puckeringly awful”

Oh, yeah. I think you got the words! Hee.

Bri November 27, 2007 at 8:31 pm

cookiecrumb – Thanks! I really had to reach deep for those choice words 😉
By the way, I checked out your fun blog. We are just a hop, skip and a jump from each other. I’ll be sure to check in periodically with what you have to snark about.

Patricia Scarpin November 29, 2007 at 5:14 am

Sao Paulo is not as hot as Rio de Janeiro or Bahia, thank heavens!
We do have some nice persimmons here – and my mom loved them!

There’s one type here that is a bit firmer, Bri, yellowish on the inside and full of brown dots – we call it “chocolate persimmon”. 🙂

cassie November 29, 2007 at 1:22 pm

What a wonderful post, Bri. I haven’t had a persimmon in years. I remember eating them when I was a little girl in Japan and absolutely loved them.

Bri November 29, 2007 at 2:13 pm

Patricia – Thanks for letting me know more about Sao Paulo. Brazil is a country I’d love to visit someday. Maybe my background with Spanish would help me get by with Portuguese. I love that your mom loved persimmons. It’s sweet to remember things my mom loved, brings me a little closer to her. I wonder if the persimmon you call “chocolate” is related to our fuyu. Sometimes the fuyus have brown spots in them. Hmm.

Cassie – Great to “see” you. It’s interesting that the persimmons we eat have Japanese names, but I’ve never seen persimmon used in Japanese cooking (not that I’m ALL that familiar with Japanese cuisine, but you know what I mean).

Xue December 9, 2007 at 7:44 am

if you wait for a loooong long while (ie, buy them and forget about them), the fuyu can also become very soft and amazingly delicious

Susan December 10, 2007 at 9:17 am

My step-daughter recently brought us a box of Amagaki persimmons from the Sacramento, CA area.

I know that persimmons can be wonderful in baked goods. My question for anyone is: can this new variety be used in baked goods? I am looking for a great cookie or quick bread recipe if anyone has any.

Thanks!
Susan (in Sandy, Utah)

Bri December 11, 2007 at 12:05 pm

Xue – Yes, I’ve noticed that about the other non-astringent variety too. I should let them sit on my counter longer. Yum! Thanks for the suggestion.

Susan – Ooooo, the Amagakis are good aren’t they. I find that the persimmon flavor isn’t really strong in baked goods, but you would probably want them to be really soft before you baked with them. When they are harder, you could grate or dice them into muffins in place of apples. Or, you could wait until they are really soft and use them more like the consistency of banana in muffins or quickbread. Either way, I would think that if you take a recipe that calls for a similar consistency fruit, and just swap it out for the persimmon, you could have a tasty treat. I’ve been doing some experimenting with Hachiyas and the result was good, but definitely needed tweaking. Enjoy your box of treats!

Wayne December 18, 2007 at 9:57 am

Just noticed this fruit for the first time in the supper market (4″of bloody snow on the front lawn Ontario Canada,and I got to go shopping ) anyways ask the produce clerk what they were , he told me I thought what the heck I’ll give them ago.
I’m hooked thier great and worth the trip to the store and I’ll be buying this fruit from the gods again……. came across your site trying to find more info on this fruit
Wayne Ontario Canada

Bri December 18, 2007 at 11:55 am

Wayne – Well, I am happy to see another persimmon convert. Boy are they good. Thanks so much for leaving a comment!

I June 24, 2008 at 10:10 pm

Omg! They are soooo deliciouse,and I forgot about one for a whil like mentioned by Xue and it was ok but I like ripe ones the best. I ate one about two days ago and cannot stop, in fact im eating one now!

Jennifer Crinion November 25, 2009 at 1:28 pm

Love your write up about persimmons! They sound so sumptuous! I am posting an article about them soon too!

Cynthe December 5, 2009 at 8:55 pm

Jennifer ~ I’ll have to come read your post. Give us a quick “come-see” once it’s done. Thanks for stopping by.

Leave a Comment

{ 2 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: