My most favorite fall fruit is the persimmon. One of the most stunning sites while traveling in Italy in the fall is to see a persimmon tree which has lost all of its leaves while the glossy red-orange fruit hangs on to the branches long into winter. Although there are hundreds of types of persimmons you’ll usually find 2 types in the grocery store – the Hachiya which is oblong, conical and looks somewhat like a giant orange acorn and the squat Fuyu which looks like a tomato.
The Hachiya is extremely astringent and powerfully bitter until fully ripe. When it’s squishy soft and feels like a gorgeous, delicate little water ballon, cut the stem top off and eat it with a spoon to enjoy its sweet luscious flavor (a bit messy but worth it!). Do not eat it if it’s somewhat firm and underripe, the tannic astringency will have you puckering for quite a few minutes. The ripe pulp can also be elegantly served in a footed pudding dish topped with whipped cream and chopped pistachios. You can also add the pulp to pancake, cake, cookie, bread and pudding batter. I’ve also wrapped the very ripe fruit in plastic wrap and put it in the freezer; then let it thaw for a couple of hours in the refrigerator. Serve it stem side down on a plate, and, with a knife slit the skin in sections from tip to stem, peel it back and enjoy the “instant sorbet” inside.
The Fuyu variety is smaller, rounded and tomato shaped. Because the Fuyu is tannin-free it will be non-astringent and although can be enjoyed when very ripe and soft, it is at its best while still firm and crunchy. Try it sliced in salads, sweet and savory, in desserts, or just eat it out of hand. It’s a delicious substitute for melon with prosciutto and works well braised with pork instead of apples. It’s also quite nice cut in half, sprinkled with brown sugar and put under the broiler, until the sugar bubbles and glazes.
The Italian name for persimmon is Cachi, pronounced kaki.
Persimmons can be found on the North End at Alba Produce, 18 Parmenter St, Boston, MA