Do you like to pucker? Don’t bother with lemons or limes; bite into an unripe Hachiya persimmon. You’ll pucker all right, thanks to its high tannin content. Tannin is the bitter ingredient that gives black tea its distinctive flavor, ages wine and even tans leather (although leather is tanned with the tannin from fir trees, not from persimmons). If you only like to pucker up for a good kiss, either let the Hachiya get nice and soft, or cook it. While soaking an unripe Hachiya in salt water will depuckerize it, who wants a salty persimmon when a sweet one is so much tastier? Just give it some time (or a sojourn in a paper bag with an apple as a companion; the apple emits ethylene gas, the same substance that rots your veggies if you don’t eat them fast enough). How will you know if a Hachiya is ripe? It will be mushy. You can scoop it right out of its rind with a spoon.
Hachiyas are shaped a bit like acorns, or filberts, more vertical than horizontal, with slightly pointy bottoms. Fuyus, on the other hand, are shaped more like tomatoes: horizontal rather than vertical, with flat bottoms. Fuyus are crisp when ripe, and are sweet and puckerless.
Which sort of persimmon should you eat? The one that pleases you best with its texture. Which sort should you use in a recipe? That depends on the recipe. If you are baking a pie, you will want the crisp Fuyu, but a ripe Hachiya will do well in a pudding, as it’s already soft.
Here are a pair of simple recipes to introduce you to each kind of persimmon (note that there are a lot of varieties but they fall into one of these two types):
Hachiya Persimmon Bread
* Three mushily ripe Hachiya persimmons
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and lightly flour a loaf pan.
If you are using butter, soften it at room temperature before beginning. If you are using spread, proceed. Cream the butter and sugar together. (You may be tempted to melt the butter, but the texture is much nicer if you cream it instead.) Add the egg and continue to blend. Add the persimmons and blend more. Add the yoghurt and blend that in as well. Finally, add the almond extract and give it one more blending. Set aside.
Mix the flour, salt, cinnamon and baking soda with a fork or whisk. Crush the walnut pieces as best you can with your hands (no need to pulverize them) and add them to the flour mixture, making sure each piece is coated.
Slowly fold the dry mixture into the wet, until it is all thoroughly blended. Spoon it into the loaf pan and bake it for an hour. Cool it for 10 minutes before serving or it will fall apart when you try to slice it or turn it out onto a plate. Serve as is, or with a cream cheese icing.
Crunchy Fuyu Persimmon Salad
Ingredients (amounts to taste):
* Seasonal mixed greens (for example, mustard, collard or turnip greens, rapeweed, curly endive, curly kale or swiss chard, for autumn or winter; baby greens, romaine hearts, butter lettuce or radicchio for spring and summer, and spinach and arugala year-round)
* One half cup plain, unsweetened yoghurt
Lightly rub a large wooden salad bowl with oil (we like peanut or dark sesame oil, but canola or olive will do). Rinse and drain salad greens and tear them into bite-sized pieces (except for baby greens, which generally are already bite-sized) and place them in the bowl. Toss them a bit to get a little oil onto them.
Peel the persimmons and slice them, then cut the slices in half. Add to the bowl.
Vigorously rinse and then zest an entire lemon into the bowl, avoiding the light pith (which won’t be as astringent as an unripe Hachiya but won’t be pleasant either). You may use a zester or an ordinary vegetable peeler. Then continue to zest, to discard, the pith. When you reach the fruit, stop. Slice the lemon very thinly, and poke out the seeds (a toothpick works well for this). Quarter each slice and add to the bowl.
While you’ve got the zester or peeler out, cut the ends off the zucchini, rinse it, cut it in half, then zest it into the bowl until it’s too thin to zest. Chop the remainder and add it too.
Add the walnuts, almonds and cocoanut to the bowl.
Rinse, core and slice (but do not peel) the apple(s) into sixths, and cut each slice into thirds. Add to bowl.
Remove cap and seeds from the pepper, chop it to taste and add to bowl.
Rinse the radishes, slice them very thinly and add to bowl.
You can toss this together and you’ll toss it again when you add the dressing.
To make the dressing, warm the honey (do not boil) and dissolve the brown sugar into it. Add the vinegars and mix well. Slowly add the yoghurt and sour cream, blending thoroughly. Finally, add the poppy seeds and mix until the seeds are evenly distributed. Chill if desired; refrigerate leftovers in a tightly capped jar.
(If you prefer to moisten your salad with a commercial product, we recommend T. Marzetti’s poppyseed dressing.)
Now that you have sampled both forms of persimmon, you are ready to venture further into the possibilities of this delectable little fruit and use it in recipes of your own!
Next: Recipes Puttanesca