Food Word: Persimmons
Food Word: Persimmon
What is it: Abundant in countries like China, Japan, and Myanmar (Burma), persimmons are still often overlooked in North America. There are several species but the Fuyu and Hachiya varieties are the kinds you’ll see in supermarkets. They are yellow to bright orange or slightly red and textures vary from firm to very soft.
Persimmons come into season in late autumn to winter months and are grouped into astringent and non-astringent types. As the name suggests, astringent persimmons dry the mouth up due to their tannin content – if you’ve ever had a very dry wine, you’ll know the familiar puckering feeling.
Astringent persimmons may look ripe but are only actually ripe when their flesh turns soft and mushy; these types are best pureed and used in desserts. The most common astringent persimmon is the Hachiya, which are longer and more tapered than the rounder non-astringent/sweet types. Fuyu persimmon is the most common sweet variety. Non-astringent persimmons are good to eat while the flesh is still firm so dice it or slice it and add it to a salad; they're also delicious roasted.
Why I like it: Persimmons are bold. When either variety is ripe, the flavor is very sweet and slightly spicy. Don’t bother pairing with mild flavours, which will get lost. Instead opt for rich liquids (cream and liquor), acids (pomegranate and citrus), and flavours that warm (ginger, cinnamon & pepper). They’re also good with cilantro and nuts. Like many orange fruits and vegetables, persimmons are high in beta-carotene and vitamin C; they’re also high in sugar, so be careful if you have medical conditions that will be affected by that.
Anything more?: Persimmons can be used in sweet or savory preparations but I prefer them in a dessert, especially custard-based ones, like my Persimmon Tart (pictured below). They can be tricky to work with; you have to wait until they’re just right. Look for tips or live and learn – bite into an astringent persimmon and you won’t forget it soon! They bruise easily so avoid roughing them up and store at room temperature, using them before they spoil.