What Are Persimmons? And What Do They Taste Like?
As long as pecans and peaches have been able to grow in the South, so have persimmons. The uniquely sweet, plump, squishy fruits come into season during the late fall and winter from around October to February. Largely lesser-known in the produce section, they're highly underrated as a dessert ingredient, salad topping, and fresh snack. Here's what to know about persimmons.
What Are Persimmons?
These fruits come in multiple varieties, primarily stemming originally from Asia. There are two main types of Asian persimmons: Fuyu and Hachiya. These are the varieties that you'll find growing in North America, as well, and both can be used when baking desserts. Wild trees thrive throughout the South on the edges of cleared fields, from Maryland to Florida and from the North Carolina Piedmont to Texas and beyond.
Hachiya persimmons are oval-shaped and colored in a bright blood-orange shade. These are best when left to ripen until incredibly soft, with the interior turning almost pudding-like. Fuyu persimmons feature a squat shape with flat bottoms and are more of a true light orange shade. These don't require waiting until quite as soft as Hachiya persimmons. (Slightly squishy suffices.)
What Do Persimmons Taste Like? Plus, How To Cook With Them
Persimmons taste best when allowed to fully ripen, with Hachiya persimmons taking longer than Fuyu persimmons to get to optimal flavor. You'll want the Hachiya persimmons to be incredibly squishy to the touch, while Fuyu persimmons are fine when just quite soft. Both types of persimmons can be placed in a paper bag on the kitchen counter to ripen more quickly.
As far as flavor, Hachiya persimmons will be super tart until optimally ripe, upon which they'll be almost liquefied or pudding-like in the center and taste mild and very sweet. They'll feel dense and heavy for their size. These are often best for using as "baking" persimmons and usually require being peeled and puréed into a pulp to add to baked goods. (Use a sieve to avoid any leftover stems or seeds.) Expect subtle pumpkin-like flavor and moistness when added to cakes, puddings, and other treats. Persimmons pair deliciously with spices like cinnamon and nutmeg.
Fuyu persimmons will also taste tart or bitter until fully ripened, but require less time to do so and can be eaten when soft to the touch. These can be prepared by cutting off the tops, slicing, and peeling them, making sure to remove and discard any large black seeds. Firmer in texture, these can be more easily added to salads or baked in the oven than the softer Hachiya persimmons. The taste is mild with a honey-like flavor.
Do Persimmons Have Benefits?
Persimmons are very high in vitamins (like riboflavin, magnesium, and thiamin) and have antioxidant properties. One persimmon contains a majority of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A.
Next time you run into a persimmon tree or persimmons at your local farmers' market, consider grabbing a few to snack on or to bake into one of these classic persimmon dessert recipes.