Each fall, the staff at Farmers’ Almanac checks in with Melissa Bunker of North Carolina, a.k.a. “The Persimmon Lady,” to see what she finds in the center of her persimmon seeds. The seeds tell a story about what we can expect for the coming winter.
But the persimmon is much more than a weather prognosticator.* It’s a soft, edible fruit (provided you bite into one that is lush and ripe, otherwise, you’re in for an unpleasant surprise) that can be eaten fresh, cooked, or dried. Persimmons make delicious jams, pies, steamed puddings, bread and muffins, stuffing, curry, and cookies. They are also delicious sliced and served fresh in green salads with watercress and nuts.
A persimmon is actually a berry that comes from the edible fruit trees in the genus, Diospyros which has been fondly referred to as the “Divine Fruit.” Native to China, the persimmon has been cultivated for thousands of years. Japan has been cultivating persimmons for about 1300 years. Japanese and Chinese cultivars were first introduced to the U.S. from 1870 to 1920.
Today various cultivars of persimmons are grown in a dozen other countries. The American persimmon, Diospyros virginiana, also known as the Common Persimmon, is grown from Florida to Connecticut, west to Iowa and south to Texas. According to University of California/Davis, most domestic commercial production of persimmons is centered in California; in 2012, the 2,898 acres harvested produced 16,898 tons of fruit.
There are two popular types of persimmons: Hachiya is an astringent variety that is pale, heart or acorn-shaped. Fuyu is a non-astringent variety (pictured) that is orange, tomato-shaped, and a sweet variety that can be eaten while firm, although it should have a little “give” in the flesh when pressed. Learn how to select the most flavorful fruit!
What do they taste like?
Some say the fruits taste similar to apricots, with a pudding-like texture when ripe.
Try this delicious, easy recipe that uses ripe Fuyu persimmon fruit:
Broiled Persimmons with Ginger Mascarpone
4 ripe persimmons
1 fresh lime, quartered (reserve 1 tablespoon lime juice for cheese topping)
9 ounces Mascarpone cheese
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Coconut palm sugar
Slice persimmons in half, crosswise. Place halves flesh-side up in a baking tray. Drizzle raw honey on top of each half. Place baking tray of persimmons under a broiler and broil until tops are caramelized and golden brown, for approximately 7 minutes.
While the fruit is broiling, whisk the Mascarpone, one tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice, ginger powder, and vanilla extract together in a mini food processor or in a bowl using an electric mixer.
Remove hot tray from oven and squeeze fresh lime juice over each persimmon half. Place hot, broiled persimmons on a serving platter. Top each half with a dollop of the Ginger Mascarpone cheese. Sprinkle coconut palm sugar on the cheese topping and serve immediately.
*Be sure to look at the seeds from a locally-grown persimmon to predict the weather in your area. See what the Persimmon Lady’s seeds forecast this year!