Diners are more adventurous then ever, especially when it comes to trying a new fruit or vegetable. Perhaps this year will be persimmons’ moment in the spotlight, as the brilliantly colored fruit is certainly poised to move center stage in baked goods, puddings and even cocktails. Persimmon is an increasingly popular ingredient across the menu, experiencing a 121 percent growth in menu mentions over the past four years.
“They’re originally native to China and Japan, but they’re now domestically grown for commercial use in California, and internationally in Spain and Israel,” says Robert Schueller, Director of Public Relations at Melissa’s Produce and “Produce Guru” for Cooking Light magazine. He finds persimmons remarkable because they are one of the few fruits that’s as orange on the inside as it is on the outside. As far as flavor is concerned, Schueller says that, even though they are distantly related to squash, “They’re more on the sweet spectrum, not the savory.”
Meet the varieties
There are two common varieties of persimmon: the Hachiya (or Japanese persimmon), which is round and which grows very soft when ripe, and the Fuyu, which is smaller, flatter and firm even when ripe. Melissa’s has introduced a new variety, Cinnamon Persimmons. “They have golden flesh with brown flecks, and they taste like a combination of Fuyu and Hachiya,” Schueller says. “The brown speckles make them taste like sugary cinnamon. You can add slices of them, along with walnuts and pomegranate seeds, for a salad.”
Schueller notes that the fruits’ distinctive color makes them an excellent addition to baked goods. “Try persimmon bread instead of banana bread, he suggests. “I like to make my bread with Hachiya varieties, after they’ve gotten very ripe and squishy.” They can also be used in pies or in protein-based entrees. For cheese or charcuterie plates, Schueller suggests opting for the Fuyu variety: “Just slice them like an apple or a pear, and they really add great burst of color,” he says.
Whatever you do, don’t eat the persimmon seeds, he warns: “They contain arsenic, and they can give you a tummyache.”
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