Some years ago on a beautiful fall day, I found myself without a lunch while volunteering in the University of California at Davis Children’s Garden. Annoyed that I had forgotten my food, I was loathe to leave the garden to bike all the way back to my apartment to get it. What I really needed was a snack to tide me over. I glanced up at the beautiful orange fruit on a nearby persimmon tree and remembered hearing my dad say “Your grandfather loved to eat them raw, right off the tree.”
Cautiously I approached the tree, remembering a traumatic experience several years before when I’d bitten into a persimmon. The effect was ten times worse than eating an unripe banana. My tongue went into shock and was paralyzed by a layer of astringent dryness no amount of water could fix. Did I dare risk making the same mistake?
I weighed my options: I knew their were two types of persimmons, ‘Hachiya’ and ‘Fuyu.’ I knew one was best eaten “squishy”and the other when crispy, but which was which? The fruit on this true was gorgeous and glossy enough to be on a magazine cover. In the end, my hunger won out, and I picked a particularly squishy looking one, peeled away some of the skin and took a bite (more of a slurp, actually) and was pleasantly surprised. The fruit was extremely sweet and had a light, almost cinnamon spice flavor. Success! I felt my grandfather smiling down at me through the leaves of the tree. And, since there’s no such thing as too much of a good thing I ate a total of six fruits. A decision I would regret later…
Now I will always remember the difference between the two types. The ‘Hachiya’ is the more attractive and has an elongated fruit and a pointy end. For this variety, “before you take a bite, wait until fruit is soft and ripe!” And when I say “ripe” I mean, very, VERY, very soft and squishy. Some people take a spoon and eat out the flesh like a dessert. The Fuyu persimmon, on the other hand, looks like a squatty little apple, and can be eaten like one too. It’s crunchy and sweet. I like to add it to freshly grown lettuce along with some pomegranate seeds and an olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette.