Persimmon season is over with now, but we had a great run with them this winter. I find their flavor irresistible: a mix of mango, peach, and apricot. Seriously, what is not to like about that?
There are roughly two types of persimmons on the market, ones that I call sour and sweet, though I think the technical terms are astringent and non-astringent. You'll see these on the market as Hachiya and Fuyu respectively.
Sour persimmons are roughly spherical and commercial varieties grow to about the size of a cricket ball. Our native persimmons here in Virginia are much smaller, smaller than a golf ball, and are most assuredly of the astringent type as I found out as a gradeschooler! They are a pretty rough go until they have had a lot of frost and become dead ripe—I'm talking about turn-your-mouth-inside-out tannic! Once ripe though, they're pretty good if you can keep the wild turkeys off of them. I know that I ate enough of them when foraging about the woods of our property in Albemarle County, Virginia as a kid.
The other kind, the sweet variety, is what you see in the photo above, a flattened sphere in the traditional tomato shape. Because the sour Hachiya types have to be dead ripe, they tend to have very soft flesh like a plum, which doesn't lend itself to dicing or slicing. In this regard, I like the sweet Fuyu types better for the restaurant because I can do more with them. Here's a photo of a salad of sliced Fuyus with Mâche and Goat Cheese.
Late next fall and next winter, when you see persimmons in your market, take some home. Both kinds are delicious; just make sure that the Hachiyas are fully ripe before you tuck into them. If you've never had a persimmon before, you're in for a real treat.
I leave you with a recipe for persimmon salsa from my forthcoming book.
4 Fuyu persimmons, about 1 ¼ pounds (500g)
1 bunch (about 10) green onions, sliced into rings
½ small red onion, finely minced
½ bunch cilantro, minced
1 serrano chile, finely minced
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 pinch salt
juice of one lime
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Mix all the ingredients well and let stand for a few minutes before serving. Feel free to substitute any chiles you like: habañeros are particularly good in this recipe. Yields a bit less than a quart (1 liter) of salsa.