Persimmons are available mainly in two varieties on the West Coast. Fuyus, short, squat, and shaped like a small apple, are eaten when crisp, usually out of hand, while the acorn-shaped Hachiya must ripen to a nearly gelatinous state to be edible, and is then usually turned into a pudding, cookies, or a cake. Native to Asia, and the season’s most underappreciated fruits, persimmons are beguiling on the tree: amber globes dangling from spare, leafless, woody limbs.
“Most farmers can’t give them away,” says Stan DeVoto, who is also known at the market for his splashy array of cut flowers and Sebastopol apples. “Every year I pull up more trees so that I can make room for flowers and apples. Customers seem to prefer the Fuyus because they can be eaten out of hand. But the Hachiyas are best for baking.”
Bill Crepps of Everything Under the Sun, in Winters, has been farming persimmons organically for fifteen years. Market shoppers know him best for selling unusual sun-dried or dehydrated fruits, including persimmons, which keep their vibrant color and taste.
The only persimmons native to North America (Diospyros virginianal, found primarily in the eastern Midwest and in some Atlantic and Southern states, are unlike the varieties of California, the Mediterranean, or Asia. They are small and dark and considered ripe once they fall to the ground. They are far too puckery before that point. You won’t find them at the market, but if you should come across them elsewhere, they are good eaten out of hand or used in cakes and puddings.
Fall and Winter
Both the Hachiya and Fuyu should be a rich orange. You can purchase Hachiyas when they are still firm and ripen them at home, or purchase them soft and ripe. Fuyus should be firm and the small leaves surrounding the stem should be fresh looking.
Arrange firm Hachiyas, point side up, on a windowsill or as a centerpiece on a platter and wait for them to ripen. Once ripe, they can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days. If you are in a hurry, place firm Hachiyas in the freezer as is for 24 hours. Then thaw them in the refrigerator and use them for baking: scoop the flesh from the peel, remove any seeds, and puree the flesh in a food processor. If you have too many Hachiyas ripening at the same time, scoop out the flesh, measure it, place in zippered plastic bags, label and date, and freeze for up to 2 months. Store Fuyus at room temperature for a day or two, or in the refrigerator for longer.
Fuyus, which are essentially seedless, can be eaten peel and all, or you can peel and slice them for salads. You need to peel Hachiyas and remove any small, dark seeds from the pulp.
Nutritional information is based on 6 servings, 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds, using feta cheese, and includes 1/8 teaspoon of added salt per serving.