Incorporate this underrated classic into your fruit fare this fall.
Story By Bailey Gilliam
In various parts of the world, particularly Asia, nothing welcomes the fall season quite like a luscious persimmon. This fruit is long prized for its jammy texture and honeyed flavor. But here in the United States, persimmons haven’t attained the same instant association with fall, taking a distant back seat to pumpkins, apples and cinnamon-flavored treats. We’ve gathered the dirt on this underrated fruit, so let’s take a closer look at this autumn treat.
Persimmon and goat cheese crostini
Crostinis are the perfect vessel for persimmons, as they usually pair sweet and savory into a delicious appetizer treat. Try this easy crostini recipe with persimmons, goat cheese, walnuts and honey to awaken your taste buds and enjoy this underutilized fruit.
1 baguette, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
5 tablespoons salted butter, room temperature
5 tablespoons honey
2 large ripe Fuyu persimmons, peeled & sliced
8 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
Candied walnuts, for garnish
Directions  Heat oven to 425 degrees with the oven rack positioned in the middle. Have a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Stir together honey and butter in a medium bowl, until evenly combined. Spread the honey-butter on one side of each baguette slice and place on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, until toasted. Place baking sheet on a wire rack to cool completely.  To assemble the crostini, spread some goat cheese on top of each baguette slice. Top with a few slices of persimmon and candied walnuts. Serve immediately.
Add persimmon jam to your morning routine with this easy jam recipe. Toast has never tasted or looked so good.
6 fuyu persimmons
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Directions  Remove the skins from the persimmons and cut into small pieces. Make sure to remove the stems and seeds. Add sliced persimmons to a sauce pan with lemon juice. Heat over medium heat for 15 minutes to soften up the fruit. Use a potato masher to help the process along.  After 15 minutes, add sugar and salt and stir until the sugar melts. Simmer for another 10-15 minutes to thicken up the jam. Use the potato masher to crush the fruit if it still seems too lumpy.  Test the jam by spooning a small amount onto a plate. Tilt the plate, and if it doesn’t slide, the jam should be done. Cook for a few more minutes if it fails the test.  Remove the sauce pan from the heat. Spoon jam into a jar for storage.
Persimmons are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, each of which provides important health benefits. Persimmons are a good source of vitamins A and C, as well as manganese, which helps the blood to clot. They also have other antioxidants, which reduce the risk of many serious health conditions, including cancer and stroke. Persimmons can help keep your arteries clear and reduce the risk of heart disease. Vitamin C helps support the immune system and protects against heart disease. One component of persimmons, its tannin-rich fiber, has proven particularly effective in treating high cholesterol. Persimmons also are high in soluble dietary fiber, which slows the digestion of carbohydrates, preventing spikes in blood sugar. One serving contains more than half the recommended daily intake of vitamin A, which is important to vision health. The peel is also rich in lutein, which is known to help protect against eye disease. While persimmons are healthy, they are high in sugar like all fruit. So be sure to pay attention to your intake as part of a balanced diet.
Persimmons are great trees for the home gardener and are easy to plant. Choose a sunny spot that has well-drained soil. Dig a hole wider than it is deep. Then choose a plant with nicely developed roots. The crown should sit a bit above the soil line to accommodate settling. Consider adding mulch to help keep the roots cooler in the summer. To care for the tree, prune limbs that are crossing and dangling, and water young trees well until established. Water mature trees whenever there is no significant rainfall, such as in periods of drought.
Poor little rich boy
One is inclined to ask, “If persimmons are so easy to grow, why aren’t they more popular?” There are a few reasons these beautiful trees aren’t growing in everyone’s yard. Persimmon trees are a little more expensive than your average fruit tree because the propagation is expensive. Not only is the tree hard to bud, but the buds don’t always take, and sometimes fewer than 60 percent of the trees survive the digging. So growers take on the challenge of propagating persimmon trees, while the rest of us can buy young, healthy, grafted trees at the nursery. You’ll pay a little more, but the investment offers returns. In short, buy a tree from a nursery, don’t try growing this tree from the start.
Types of persimmons
There are over 2,000 varieties of persimmons but far fewer available to gardeners in the United States. You’ll mainly deal with the two categories of persimmon: astringent and non-astringent. You’ll sometimes see all astringent fruits generalized as ‘Hachiya’ and all non-astringent fruits as ‘Fuyu.’ Astringent varieties don’t become sweet until they’re fully ripe, while non-astringent types are sweet even while firm and not quite ripe. Fuyu persimmons are short and squat and shaped much like tomatoes. When they are orange, they’re ripe and can be eaten like an apple. Hachiya persimmons tend to be a little larger than Fuyu and are more acorn shaped. The main difference between hachiya persimmons and fuyus is that hachiyas are extremely astringent until they are completely soft and ripe.
To ripen astringent persimmons quickly, place the fruit in the freezer overnight. Remove the fruit from the freezer and allow the cold-ripened fruit to thaw.
Fuyu persimmons will keep for months if stored in a dry, dark, cool place. If set on a counter to ripen, eventually they will soften a bit. At this point you can purée the fruit and use it for recipes that call for persimmon purée.
Where to buy
Farmers Market of Bluffton: Purchase locally grown persimmons from noon to 5 p.m. Thursdays in Old Town Bluffton.
Supermarkets: Our favorite grocery stores for persimmons are Publix, Whole Foods, The Fresh Market and Kroger.
Persimmons can be eaten in a variety of ways. Eat them on their own or incorporate them into your diet a bit more effortlessly by adding them to salads, using them instead of apples in pork dishes, baking them in muffins or breads, adding them to oatmeal or granola or roasting them into a healthy dessert. The leaves can be used for tea. They also can be made into butters, jams and jellies, juiced, baked into pies–just about everything that fruits can be imagined into.
Move over, pumpkin! Get in the mood for fall with this easy persimmon pie recipe. Impress friends and family with your creativity and baking skills. Bonus points for a homemade pie crust.
9-inch single crust pie pastry dough
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups half-and-half cream
1 cup persimmon pulp
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Directions  Heat oven to 450 degrees. Place a sheet pan on the lowest oven rack.  Combine eggs, cinnamon, sugar, and salt. Whisk in cream, persimmon pulp, melted butter, and lemon juice. Pour into unbaked pie shell.  Bake for 10 minutes on heated sheet pan. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake an additional 30 minutes, or until center is almost set but still slightly jiggly. Cool completely before slicing. Serve with whipped cream.