While persimmons aren’t grown locally, they’re a seasonal treat that adds a little culinary spark at a rather drab time of year. Not only are they gorgeous in a wabi-sabi kind of way, their golden color represents good fortune for the Lunar New Year in many Asian cultures. We could all use a little good fortune about now, right?
All that aside, I have a special place in my heart for our native persimmons that grew wild on tall, dark hardwood trees in the countryside when I lived in North Carolina. The wild fruit hangs on the tree after all the autumn leaves have dropped like little sugar plums, up so high I’d have to wait for the fruit to drop before I could eat it. Usually the birds and raccoons would beat me to it because once persimmons ripened, they’re ready to go. If you try one before it’s ripe, be prepared for an astringent bite guaranteed to pucker.
There are two types of persimmons available to us in the Pacific Northwest. The more astringent of the two is the acorn-shaped Hachiya. This type needs to ripen in order to be edible and is most often used as pulp in baking or cooking. Fuyu persimmons look like swat little orange tomatoes. They aren’t as astringent as the Hachiya and can be eaten like a tomato. Both will probably be hard when you buy them at the grocery store. I like to just put them out on a plate on the table as a beautiful centerpiece and let them ripen slowly. Both types have a thin skin that’s easily removed with a potato peeler.
Once the Hachiya fruit is ripe, you can easily scoop it out with a spoon. You can also make a quick persimmon ‘sorbet’ by freezing the entire ripe fruit, using the skin as a bowl. I used mine in an arugula salad along with prosciutto, feta cheese and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds, all dressed in a sherry wine vinaigrette. I’m sorry to say that, after taking this photograph, it was so inviting I felt compelled to eat the entire thing, not leaving even one little taste for Charlie. That’s the thing with persimmons. The taste is so subtle and different, I can’t stop eating them just because I keep trying to define the taste. That’s my excuse anyway.
The Fuyu’s took a little longer to ripen although I’ve read that you can eat them when they’re still firm. Once they were soft, like a ripe tomato, I cut them in wedges to roast. Truthfully, I could easily have stopped there and skipped the roasting because they’re delicious raw. If I had to choose between a Fuyu and a Hachiya, I think I’d go with the Fuyu, although both are interesting in their own way.
I roasted them for about 45 minutes in a 400 degree oven, turning them over once, after about 25 minutes. Roasting intensified the sweetness but still wasn’t as candy-like as some roasted or dried fruit. Persimmons make a delicious and beautiful addition to a plate of less flamboyant roasted vegetables — parsnips, turnips, rutabagas, to name a few.
I sprinkled some on a homely bowl of roasted vegetable soup along with a swirl of cream and it brought the whole thing to life.
If you’re in the mood to add something bright to your winter season, persimmons might be just the thing.