There are two kinds of persimmon. The first, the Fuyu, looks like a tomato and is eaten like an apple or sliced into a salad. Although they are supposed to be crisp when eaten, I find they are more flavourful when properly ripe, which is to say, bulbous and crepey and as if about to burst their banks. They look so beautiful it almost doesn’t matter about the rest.
The Hachiya, like the quince and medlar fruit, can only be eaten when fully ‘bletted’ – almost rotten, with most of their astringency gone. They look pretty miserable; bruised and bloated with a long chin. They taste stunning, if occasionally slightly furry. The inside of a Hachiya is the kind of orange I have only ever seen in a Howard Hodgkin painting. It is floating and jelly-like to eat – if you can imagine a creamy mouthful of the best jelly at the finest children’s birthday party you have ever been to. A wisp of mint and some crème fraîche and you’re an addict forever.
In California, there is much talk of persimmon pies, purees, tarts, butters and such. This might be because there is often a glut of them in winter. But sometimes between fruit and pudding falls the shadow. So much of their beauty is lost once you interfere. It’s true that wild persimmon, Diospyros virginiana, was cooked by the early American settlers until they were “baked and sodden,” so ubiquitous was the fruit. We are unlikely ever to be in their shoes again.
With the Hachiya, simply slice off the ‘lid’ (with its fawn-coloured calyx) and proceed as you would a soft-boiled egg. A spoon and some deep yellow cream is all you need. And even that might be pushing it. With the Fuyu, peel off the skin which can be tough, and then slice it as you would a tomato – horizontally. Serve with some toasted nuts, some sea salt, lemon and nut oil and perhaps some hard cheese. Treat it as you would melon; as a nice clean starter. Alternatively, if you’re in a rush or frankly can’t be arsed, then eat it as is.
Hoshigaki is the name for Hachiya persimmons that are dried and massaged daily for six weeks until the flesh is leathery but soft and covered in the fruit’s natural sugars. It’s laborious and the results can vary hugely. At the Santa Monica farmers’ market, it was like eating the world’s largest date, a huge fudgy teardrop that caved at the slightest pressure. The ones above were tougher, more like dried banana. The woman whose job it was to massage them professed it made her feel a bit pervy (I’m paraphrasing). It’s a bit like milking a cow, apparently.
Fuyu or Sharon persimmon with sea salt, toasted nuts and hard cheese
Adapted from Deborah Madison, Seasonal Fruit Desserts
Slice the fruit into sections or cut it horizontally into thinnish rounds. Arrange the slices on a plate; add some crunchy sea salt (fleur de sel), some chopped, toasted nuts (hazelnuts are nice here), and a few drops of nut oil. Add some slices of a hard, sharp cheese.
Write me down
As one who loved poetry,
Fuyu is also known as Sharon fruit – persimmon developed by Israelis in the Sharon valley.