The Secret Pleasure of Persimmons

Posted by on October 26, 2012 at 7:55 pm

by Paul Brians, October 26, 7:55 p.m.

This is one of my favorite times of year—persimmon season! Town & Country actually has ripe ones for sale, ready to eat. This is a great rarity. Most stores sell them quite unripe, and you have to let them mature on your kitchen counter for days or even weeks.

My father loved persimmons, and half of our family learned to enjoy them too; but my mother loathed their slimy texture and messy skins, so those of us who ate them did so without her around, and cleaned up afterwards.

Many people have never tried a persimmon, and many others have tried one and decided that they don’t like them because they ate firm, astringent-tasting unripe ones that caused the lining of their mouths to feel coated and unpleasant. Only when the fruit gives to the touch are they ready to eat.

If they get overripe, they can get really gooey but are still edible by those with a high slime tolerance. The perfect texture is when the insides are like a firm jelly with a little give, and they can be eaten with a spoon (though true gluttons will also lick the last bits off the inside of the skins).

Transporting ripe persimmons is hazardous because their skins are very thin and fragile, and they should always be bagged and carried home separately. Every year I find I’m educating a bagger on the delights of persimmon eating. A fellow in T&C today asked me if they were a kind of tomato!

Colleen picking.

Colleen picking.

What do they taste like? Rich, intensely sweet, spicy with pumpkin pie notes, but like nothing else on earth.

They are often sold “for baking,” and indeed you can make nice muffins and puddings with them, but I consider it a crime to eat a good persimmon any other way than raw.

All of this applies to Hachiya persimmons: the ones with the pointed bottom. Little pillow-shaped Fuyus are sometimes cheaper and available longer. They won’t make your mouth pucker, they don’t need to get as soft, and sometimes thin slices of them are used in salads. But for the true persimmon fan, their flavor is a pale shadow of a good ripe Hachiya.

You can grow persimmon trees here, but good luck on getting a crop. They need warm summers and crisp autumns.

A few years ago we had Thanksgiving in northern California with relatives. They sent out their daughter to pick persimmons to decorate the tables with. I was told to my horror that they would throw them away because nobody in the family liked them. But I did take these pictures to remind me of their persimmon paradise.

Photos by Paul Brians.

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