This thin-skinned, golden fruit requires thought and time to enjoy at its best. When ripe and firm the flesh of traditional varieties is very astringent and unpleasant. However, once fully ripened, when it softens to a satiny jelly, the flesh is wonderfully textured and both taste and scent are delightfully rich and aromatic without being overpowering.
Persimmons seen most often in the UK are also known as ‘kaki’ and are East Asian in origin. Increasingly available and popular, in some recent years they have out-sold mangoes in the UK market.
A newer variety, usually sold as Sharon-fruit, can be enjoyed when firm and a little crisp – but it’s not the same experience as offered by the traditional fruit.
There is also an American persimmon native to the Eastern States, which is often baked into a spiced cake rather like pumpkin pie, and the black sapote of Mexico is also a variety of the fruit.
Usually seen as fresh fruit in the UK over winter but sometimes the season can extend from early autumn into spring.
Choose the best
Take home only those that are universally firm and have no skin blemishes. Traditional varieties are typically somewhat heart-shaped while the newer firm-eating variety are more like squat tomatoes.
If stored chilled persimmons keep well. When you want to ripen the fruit, put them on a plate on a warm window ledge. You can speed up the ripening process by putting them into a brown paper bag with a few bananas or apples.
Persimmons are rarely cooked. They can be added to a dish like an apple pie for interest, but the flavour tends to diminish with heating.
Persimmons are best enjoyed lightly chilled and eaten from the hand or with a spoon if they have developed their full jelly potential. The skin is edible but not usually eaten. Add to yoghurt, fruit salad, or serve with ice cream for a welcome change of colour, texture and flavour.
Firmer types of persimmon make a wonderful and colourful addition sliced or cubed into salads and make an inventive sliced topping for cakes or pushed into muffins before baking – rose or orange-flower water and such spices as cinnamon or cardamon are great flavour enhancers.