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I’ve been eating persimmons my whole life, but I never bought one until a couple of weeks ago. I grew up in southeast Louisiana, where my father, a horticulture professor at a research branch of LSU, kept (and still keeps) a garden full of interesting fruit trees. All throughout the year we’d enjoy the various fruits of his labor—tangerines, oranges, blueberries, lemons, figs, peaches, and pears— plus a few fruits none of my friends had ever heard of such as kumquats, calamondins, satsumas, and persimmons. As a child I believed that the unusual ones were monster fruits that my father had actually invented! But then I started seeing kumquats in stores, and I realized that my father was just about 20 years ahead of everyone else.
It went against my nature to buy persimmons when I know that there are perfectly good ones hanging like Christmas ornaments on my father’s trees, but since those persimmons are a two hour drive away, I decided to try the store-bought persimmons. And boy am I glad I did! These persimmons have something my father’s don’t. Or, rather, they don’t have something my father’s do—seeds. The persimmons I grew up eating had several seeds per fruit, so imagine my surprise when I cut open one of the store-bought persimmons and found no seeds:
Let me tell you, this is a big improvement! When you’re all set to eat a very ripe, juicy persimmon, the last thing you want is a bunch of seeds getting in the way.
I also found that there are two different types of persimmons being sold in my area. The ones in the two photos above are called Hachiya, and they have to be very soft before you eat them or they’ll have what they call an “astringent” quality, meaning they’ll make your mouth all puckery. They’re similar to the ones my dad grows, but without seeds. If you let them get so soft that you’re afraid they’ve gone bad, then they’ll taste so sweet and juicy that you’ll be scraping the skin with your teeth to get off all the fruit.
In an Asian grocery store, I found another variety of persimmon that I had never tasted. It was labeled “Japanese persimmon,” and from what I’ve read, they’re also called Fuyu. While the Hachiya is sort of acorn-shaped and often has a pointy bottom, the Fuyu is squatty, shaped more like a flattened apple. The wonderful thing about the Fuyu is that it is not astringent at all, and you can eat it while it is still hard and it will be sweet. I couldn’t believe how delicious the Fuyu I bought was and was sorry I’d only bought the one that you see in the photo on the left. I’ll definitely be going back to the market soon to get a whole bag of them.
I like to eat persimmons just as they are and have never felt the need to cook with them. (From what I’ve read, the Hachiyas are the ones you can cook with, but I really don’t see why Fuyus couldn’t be cooked, also.) It’s possible to make puddings, pies, cookies, and cakes with persimmons, so I went searching for an easy persimmon recipe that didn’t use a lot of sugar or flour, and I found the mother of all simple recipes—Frozen Persimmon Sorbet:
See what I mean? It doesn’t get much simpler than that. You just put the persimmon (washed, of course) into the freezer for about 2 hours, until it’s slushy but not frozen solid, take it out, cut off the top, and dig in with a spoon. A cool, delicious treat!
One caveat: I had high hopes that this would be a simple yet elegant dessert for serving guests, sort of like lemon sorbet served in lemon halves. Well, it was simple but not, I’m afraid, elegant. Persimmons have a tendency to collapse after you’ve taken a few spoonfuls from their centers, so if you want to get more than a couple of bites, you have to find some way to scrape the flesh off the inside, and there’s just no way to do that without getting your hands dirty. I’ve tried. It’s best to save the frozen persimmons for a cozy dinner with someone you love. Someone who doesn’t mind seeing you pick up a persimmon skin and scrape it clean with your teeth.
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