LOS ANGELES, November 10, 2011 — I have a confession; I’d never eaten nor worked with persimmons until I wrote this article. My only encounter with persimmons was years ago when I worked at a restaurant where the sous chef opened a box and showed me the vibrant orange fruits and discussed how delicious they were in their fall salad with chestnuts and warm sherry vinegar.
Today, I finally learned how to use and prepare persimmons.
Similar to the beet, you either love persimmons or hate them. In my professional opinion, persimmons are so intimidating that people just assume they hate them because they don’t know what to do with them.
At first glance they’re beautiful and interesting and then the frustration of uncertainty sets in. Though prevalent in California they are hard to come by in many regions of the United States. Persimmons are a tropical fruit and in season during the fall. There are two varieties: Fuyu and Hachiya.
The Fuyu is a squatty orange hard (when unripe) fruit that looks similar to a tomato. It is best eaten raw with the peel removed by a sturdy peeler and served in salads, tarts and even as chutney.
The Hachiya is shaped like an acorn and can be much darker orange in color than the Fuyu.
The Hachiya has a sweet and pulpy texture that can be scooped out with a spoon when it’s ripe. Similar to the Fuyu the peel should not be eaten. You can use the Hachiya persimmon in breads and pies, or eat it plain.
My personal experience is with the Fuyu: At the farmers market I came across a large spread of persimmons and, as I usually preach to my readers about asking the vendor for help, I did the same. However, after his instructions on how to prepare them, it was apparent that he knew very little about them and, in fact, he confessed to not liking them.
The only good information he gave was when the fruits are bright and dark orange in color they’re ready to eat, and thankfully I remembered this same tip from my sous chef.
I gladly purchased three Fuyu Persimmons and they sat on my counter top until they turned bright orange in color, and I was ready to tackle this new ingredient. I then attempted to figure out the best way to eat them or which way I would enjoy them most.
Aside from the color being bright and orange when they turned ripe I also noticed that the firmness changed. The Fuyu persimmon should be slightly soft to the touch when it’s ready to eat. The skin, though edible, is displeasing to your senses and therefore should be removed. Remove the skin but first cut off the top and then simply use a peeler to peel the skin. Next, cut the persimmons either in circles or in wedges. By cutting them in circles you’ll be able to see the beautiful design that lies within.
When the Fuyu is soft it is easy to cut, your knife should glide right through the meat of the fruit. In fact it can be so soft to cut that your knife may not go where you want it to go. Also as you’re cutting it, beware your fingers may indent the meat, so have a firm grip but not too firm.
I had two persimmons that I was working with, and what I noticed was that, like all fruit, the one that was slightly harder was nowhere near as sweet as the one that was softer. Lesson learned is that Fuyu persimmons are sweet when they’re ripe and can be tart and flavorless when they aren’t.
I made a simple fall salad with them which I used goat cheese, almonds, romaine, croutons and tossed it with olive oil and red wine vinegar. When I make it again I will use freshly squeezed lemon and arugula; the red wine seemed to be too pungent paired with the persimmon. They are also paired well with many nuts (almonds, chestnuts and walnuts), cheeses (goat or parmesan cheese) and delicious with darker greens (arugula or baby greens.)
My verdict: despite their scary reputation, persimmons are quite simple to prepare and once you get over the fear, they’re a delicious addition to add a touch of fall to your meal.
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