Fruit of the Month: Persimmon
Welcome to a new component of our blog, “The Fruit of the Month.” Every month we will share with you information on a fruit that the Food Forward volunteers harvest. This month: Persimmons! By the end of November, Food Forward will have hosted 12 persimmon picks! This year we have already harvested almost 3,000 pounds of persimmons!
Background and History
The persimmon fruit is characterized by its orange or red fruit that ripens in the Fall. The fruit is considered a true berry because of its fleshy pulp and thick skin. The persimmon originated in China, where over two thousand different varieties have been cultivated for centuries. In 1870, the persimmon tree was brought to California and proliferated until 1920. By 1930, California had over 200,000 trees. The two major varieties grown in California today are the Fuyu and the Hachiya.
Distinguishing between the Fuyu and the Hachiya
The Fuyu persimmon is known for being light orange when ripe and has a spherical, pumpkin-like shape. They may be eaten raw when firm or soft. The Hachiya persimmon is a deep orange-red when ripe and has an acorn-like shape. It must be jelly soft before eating and is usually used in baked goods.
Learn more at: http://www.harvestofthemonth.cdph.ca.gov
The Hachiya should be harvested when they are hard, but fully colored. They will ripen off the tree if stored at room temperature. Fuyu persimmons can be harvested when they are fully colored. Before eating, allow the fruit to soften at room temperature. To remove fruits, cut from the tree with shears at the stems as close to the fruit as possible. Fruit can bruise easily, so harvest with care.
Hachiya persimmons can keep in the refrigerator for a month and in the freezer for up to 8 months. Fuyu persimmons can keep only for a short time at room temperature or in the refrigerator.
For more information check out: http://www.crfg.org/pubs/ff/persimmon.html
What happens when you eat an unripe persimmon?
Persimmons are virtually inedible if not ripe. You will know you have bitten into an unripe fruit immediately because your mouth will pucker and become dry. This undesirable feeling is the result of tannins or the astringency that occurs in persimmons. The Hachiya persimmon has more tannins than the Fuyu persimmon. The Fuyu was developed by breeding out the tannic acid. The Fuyu variety can be eaten whole and raw, whereas the Hachiya variety must be eaten when extremely ripe. To remove some of the astringency in Hachiya persimmons, you can freeze the fruit overnight and then thaw.
Hand-dried persimmons, or hoshigaki, are part of the traditional Japanese New Year’s celebration. This process of hand drying takes several weeks and involves a process of hanging and hand massaging the fruits until the sugars from inside release themselves and form a sugary coat on the fruits’ skin. This process produces a dried fruit that is moist and has a concentrated flavor.
To learn more about this process visit: http://www.otoworchard.com/hoshigaki.html
At the Food Forward office, Meg is dehydrating persimmons to create a delicious tea for our holiday gift baskets. Stay tuned to learn more about how to order our baskets.