Hidden behind the celery root, kale, parsnips, sunchokes, winter squash, and other cold-weather vegetables this season is a bright orange delight you may or may not have seen before. Whether persimmons have made it onto your late fall and early winter tables before, or you’ve never noticed the fruit at your farmers’ market we chatted with experts to learn everything from how to eat persimmons, the health benefits of persimmons, and persimmon recipes so you can confidently enjoy the fruits.
Though they start popping up in the middle of October, you can find persimmons through January in most parts of the country, says Chris Ono, chef of Hansei at the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center in Los Angeles.
But they can be a little bit of a tricky fruit to work with. “Persimmons are interesting fall fruits because if they’re unripe, they have a lot of tannic acids, which when eaten, sucks all the moisture out of your mouth. Tannic acid can also be found in things like dry wines and walnuts,” explains Ben Baker, the executive chef at Miraval Austin. Here, everything you ever needed to know about eating persimmons.
Types Of Persimmons
Hesitancy with persimmons often happens because there are two different kinds of persimmons and it can get confusing to the consumer. The two most common types found in the United States are the Hachiya and Fuyu persimmons.
Also known as astringent persimmons, this variety can be found in the United States, mostly in the mid-Atlantic and California. This variety is elongated, looking almost like the shape of an acorn, and is much larger than the Fuyu. Hachiya persimmons have an astringent quality to them when they’re not fully ripe, so it’s best to eat them when they are “practically rotten,” explains Juliet Glass, director of communications at FRESHFARM, a non-profit that operates producer-only farmers’ markets in the Mid-Atlantic region. Ideally, they’ll be extremely soft to the touch and have a deep orange color.
Hachiya persimmons are often sold in multi-packs and are much harder to come by because they’re so soft, Ono says. They contain larger seeds and have a sweet jelly-like texture once ready to eat, he adds.
Though there are some slight astringent qualities to the Fuyu persimmon, this variety is known as the non-astringent or Japanese persimmon. This variety looks like a squat tomato and is much smaller than the Hachiya variety. Though it can be grown in the United States, many of these fruits available in the United States have been imported. This variety doesn’t need to get as soft before eating, and can be eaten when it’s a little bit crisper, Glass says. They’ll have a bright orange color, almost like a tangerine, when ready to eat, Ono adds.
Health Benefits Of Persimmons
Persimmons are particularly high in polyphenols, explains Jackie Newgent, R.D.N., C.D.N., plant-forward chef, culinary nutritionist, and author of 1,000 Low-Calorie Recipes. Because of this, they may help blunt a spike in blood sugar after meals, research suggests.
They’re also very high in vitamin C and have little to no fat, says Debra Moser, co-founder of Central Farm Markets in Washington D.C. Plus, they have other vitamins and minerals like vitamin A, B, folate, manganese, and potassium, adds Vandana Sheth, R.D.N., registered dietitian nutritionist and author of My Indian Table: Quick & Tasty Vegetarian Recipes.
They also contain plant compounds such as tannins, flavonols, antioxidants, and a lot of fiber, she adds. Because of their nutritional value, Sheth says they may help with decreasing inflammation, healthy vision, digestion, and heart health.
In one persimmon you’ll find:
- 118 calories
- 1 g protein
- 0 g fat
- 31 g carbohydrates
- 6 g fiber
- 21 g sugar
What Do Persimmons Taste Like?
Fuyu persimmons have a mellow sweetness and a flavor that is akin to a melon, Ono says. The Hachiya variety gets intensely sweet when allowed to soften to a jelly-like consistency. If eaten too soon, Hachiya persimmons will give off a tannic, astringent bitterness that is very unpleasant, he notes.
How To Eat A Persimmon
Fuyu persimmons can be eaten raw or baked, Glass says. Once they’re soft but firm, you can slice this variety and use it in ways you would use other sliced fruits like apples or pears this time of year. The Hachiya varieties have a little less flexibility because they’re so soft. You can eat it straight like a piece of fruit (but do so carefully as it can get messy) or use the internal flesh to bake or cook, Glass says. She notes that putting persimmons in the freezer for a few days can help ripen and sweeten them faster if you’re hoping to cook with them.
Though you can slice persimmons up and eat them whole, try these persimmon recipes to mix things up this season.
- Bake them into a loaf. In the same way you would make banana or pumpkin bread, the soft flesh of a Hachiya is ideal for a persimmon loaf. But Ono notes that you can slice up a Fuyu and use it in bread like an apple or pear, too.
- Blend into a drink. Using the soft flesh of the Hachiya variety, Moser suggests mixing the fruit into your favorite cocktail.
- Make a dessert. Ono suggests using Fuyu persimmons as a replacement for apples in desserts like pies during the holiday season. Moser adds persimmon strudel is a great addition to your dessert spread.
- Chop into a salad. Add persimmon slices into a winter salad paired with roasted beets or tomatoes, Newgent says.
- Slice into a side dish. Add sliced Fuyu persimmons into a mixture of roasted delicata squash, goat cheese, and pumpkin seeds for a delicious side, Ono suggests.
- Broil them. Sheth suggests broiling persimmon slices and serving them as part of an appetizer plate with baked brie and nuts. She also loves roasting them in the oven with a drizzle of hot chili honey as a side.
- Pickle them. Baker says the Fuyu variety pickles well and is delicious on top of salads or bowls that need crunch and sweetness.
- Make a purée. Because the inside of a Hachiya persimmon is so soft, Ono likes to use the inside as a purée and put it on top of poached fish with lemon, olive oil, and herbs. Baker adds that turning the inside into a jam or jelly is a delicious addition to a roast pork loin.
- Dry them. This common method comes from Japanese cooking and is called hoshigaki, Baker explains. To make them, peel persimmons and dip them in a salt and sugar solution and leave them strung up to dry. “The result is a lovely, tender fermented treat that’s used in a lot of Japanese cooking,” he says.
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