Luscious Persimmons

Persimmon

Persimmons are still a newly discovered continent to me. I experienced my first persimmon about two years ago, in California. Sofya, a coworker of mine from Russia (St-Petersburg to be precise), had a tree laden with them in her garden, so she brought some to work for sharing. I loved that about my workplace, there was always something in the kitchen that someone had brought in – especially at Halloween and Christmas time, when everybody was trying desperately to get the darn chocolate out of the house, only to find there was even more in the office. Once, I even brought home a beautiful butternut squash that somebody had abandonned on the table with an “adopt me” note stuck to it. What can I say, I’m tender-hearted.

Anyway, back to our persimmons. I had never seen anything of the kind, and I was intrigued to say the least. She gave me two, richly orange, plump and heavy, adorned with perfectly shaped four-leaved stems. They were still pretty firm, and Sofya warned me fiercely against trying one right away, unless I wanted to discover the true meaning of astringent and puckery. Those two lovely words, but not so lovely feelings, are the persimmon’s natural weapons to discourage anyone from eating it before its seeds are mature, and ready for digestion and [hum] dispersal. It works. Sofya instructed me to leave them out to ripen for a while, stem down. So for a few weeks, my two increasingly pumpkin colored little buddies would greet me from their cubicle shelf. From time to time, when Sofya came around to chat, she would feel the fruits, wrinkle her nose, shake her head and say with her lovely accent : “Better wait a little longer“.

Until one day, when they looked about to burst and felt so soft I hardly dared pick them up, I was finally given permission to eat them. I cut one in half vertically, and scooped out the beautifully colored, syrupy flesh. Hmmm. Incredible taste, so sweet and unique!

In French, persimmons are called “kakis”, which is puzzling, as “kaki” is also the name for the color “army green”. Whoever picked the name must have been badly color blind! I didn’t really know if I would be able to find any in Paris, but, to my delight, our favorite fruit stand has been selling them for the past few weeks, 3 for 5 euros. They are already completely ripened, so the fruit guy handles them like newborn babies, and they taste just as good as I remembered…

  • http://www.frog-gras.org Blue

    Clotilde,

    More language fascinations: in Japanese, persimmons are also called “Kaki”; a very bright, cheery and peppy word with the emphasis on the 1st syllable. I wonder what the word for army green is, and if the emphasis is on the second syllable rather than the first? It’s all about the emphases in the Japanese language…

    I remember my mother used to love them, but ugh, I hated them with a passion and haven’t eaten them since. However, with your suggestion, I think I might try one more time, maybe it would finally make my mom happy. ;)

    BTW, I love this magnifying glass category. Very appropriate and very interesting, too.

  • margaret

    Beautiful, beautiful. I love persimmons. My favorite fall fruit.

    It’s true, as well, about the various meanings of “kaki” in Japanese. First syllable emphasis is persimmon, second syllable emphasis is oyster.

    Might have to take a trip to Chinatown today to pick some up.

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Blue – Persimmons do seem to be the kind of food that people either ardently love or fiercely hate, as the taste and texture are really one of a kind. There’s no being indifferent, you gotta love that in a fruit! In any case I do urge you to try one now, sometimes when you grow up your tastes change… I’d be proud to have made you widen your fruit-span!

    Blue and Margaret – Thank you so much for explaining the etymology, I love learning that kind of things, I’m so happy! :)

  • Donna

    ahhhhh, I love them. There is also a type of persimmon that you can eat hard like an apple, and I haven’t been able to find in years. I think they are called fuyu.

  • Sylvie

    I’ve read in Japonese books (by Ariyoshi) about those kaki you eat like an aple. I suppose it is just another variety of the same fruit.
    In China, we bought a basket of perfectly ripe persimmons in Xian. We ate them with our fingers and were rapidly covered with orange sirupy juice all over ! then we visited the archeological site with the “clay army”. One of those souvenirs…

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Oh, I’ve had one of these crunchy persimmons back in California! But I was not impressed, it wasn’t very tasty. Maybe it wasn’t ripe enough?

  • http://www.mum-mum.info Wena

    wah! so nice!

  • Phil

    You might like this – I just read on another website that the latin name diospyros means food of the gods! Dios = gods, spyros = wheat.
    I think they are simply divine. We get big fat pumpkin-orange ones here in England. I think they are imported from Israel

  • corey

    I grew up in the American South, and my first experiance with the Persimon happened when i was so young that it almost seems magical now. It was a very cold winter day, and we were visiting a friend who had a persimon tree outside and she offered one to me. It tasted very yummy and was partialy frozen (i think thats why she wanted to get rid of them hehe) but that made it kinda slushy. I suppose i could accomplish a similar thing today by making persimon granita, but I dont think I could capture the childlike magic of that memory.

  • April N

    clotilde – Yes, I’m guessing the crunchy fuyu persimmon you had back in CA wasn’t quite ripe yet. If you had let it get softer, but not as soft as the other type of persimmon, the flavor would have been much sweeter and richer. Give them another try sometime, if you can find them in Paris. I just had one from the Pleasanton, CA farmer’s market as a snack – yum!

    Love your blog!

  • Kyna

    I have never eaten a persimmon as they are not readily avaliable in shops in the UK (or at least, I have never seen one and this is backed up by “The Fruit Expert”). I can however reccomend the sharon fruit, another variety of the breed developed by the Israelis. The combination of the slightly tough, smooth edible skin and the soft, sweet inside (described as a blend of melon and peach) is delightful. This fruit is also a beautiful colour but is seedless and, in my experience, there is not such a risk involved in selecting the time when they are ready to be eaten. However, wonderful as they are, I shall keep looking for a persimmon…

  • Heather

    If it helps, the tasty apple Fuyu persimmons have a flat bottom instead of a pointy one. The pointy ended Hachiya ones are more for cooking. I had a mean friend in grade school who tricked me into eating one. Yuck!

    The last place I rented had a Fuyu tree in the back yard, I really miss it right now.

    This website has a ton of information on them if you scroll down it describes the different types: http://www.crfg.org/pubs/ff/persimmon.html

  • Bernard Nery

    Please help me find out how to dry hachiya persimon

  • Leslie

    In the USA the Older Southerners will tell you that a persimmon cannot be eaten unless the frost has fallen on the fruit, so the old folk tend to leave the fruit on the trees until a frost. Once the frosty fruits have been thus imbuded it is joyful eating and also there are some wonderful recipes for persimmons. There are different varities, we have the somewhat heart shaped Asian variety, but there is the roundish orange sort too, however, both types must be completely ripe, so if you get some at a shop or they fall off the tree just a take them inside and watch until their deep orange skins begin to shrivel just a bit. I especially like to pair persimmons with fresh honey.

  • Charlotte A. Adams

    I have persimons on my tree for the first time and it is loaded down.I like to bite a hole in the top and suck out all the sweetness. I also hold one under running hot water for a few seconds and then it is easily peeled.I also smashed them up and stirred in some Cool Whip. Delicious.
    Charlotte

  • Stacy

    It looks like I was beat to the punch about the etymology of “kaki.” ;)

    My host-mother used to cut up kaki for me to eat for breakfast in Japan… They were seldom as ripe as the one you’ve pictured here, however! I also got to try dried persimmons when we traveled together to Korea. Those were too sweet for me, but she liked them very much.

  • Elena Boyd

    Small advice – you can put couple Persimmons to the fridge until they get stone-frozen and then let them slow and gently defrost. You will have the best and sweetest persimmons. That”s what we doing in Russia for Churma ( name we use for them).

    And thank you for the best receipts – gosh, you even can”t imagine how often I refer to your books when I cook.

  • Elena Boyd

    Oh, forgot to mention it – there is also another kind of persimmons. They have a light flavor of chocolate and color is dark orange with chocolate stripes inside. Absolutely delicious, but I newer meet them in the US. So sad…

  • http://www.persimmonpudding.com persimmonpudding

    Glad to see more people discovering persimmons.

    BTW, not only can you get asian persimmons in France, but a number of people grow the species from the US…the common or American persimmon, Diospyros virginia. They were sent to the UK over 100 years ago and can be found there, Spain, and they seem to be popular with several fruit growers in France.

    They will be much smaller, and a bit more effort to use, but the flavor is much richer. They do have a number of seeds and that accounts for most of the extra effort to produce pulp. I like both asian and american persimmons…but if I’m selecting for flavor…D. virginiana is on top of my list.

    While my site primarily deals with common persimmons, I am gathering material for asian persimmons as well. You can typically use common persimmons in recipes created for asian persimmons with good result. However, since common persimmons are less “watery” than asian persimmons, and the flavor is milder, you typically have to use more asian persimmon pulp and adjust the wet portion of the recipes accordingly.

    Anyway, I’m always happy to see people using persimmons…enjoy the food of the gods however you will.

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