Then and now, persimmons strike me as the edible embodiment of autumn, with (depending on the variety) a crispness between apple and pear or soft, custard-like texture, a floral, clove-like sweetness, and a color that matches the turning leaves. In season from October to February, they are used in baked goods, holiday puddings, salads, salsas, and more. I prefer them eaten just as they are as a snack or a simple dessert.
Two persimmon varieties are most common in the United States, and it's important to know the difference between the two before you take your first bite.
The Fuyu persimmon (top photo) resembles an orange tomato and can be eaten when slightly underripe and crisp, or when it yields to gentle pressure. Its mellow sweetness tastes wonderful when it's sliced and added to salads, or simply eaten alone, like an apple. My friend Yukari has a recipe for Sunomono of Persimmons and Daikon, a vinegared dish that's easy to make and a good element for a bento lunch.
Today, the packages of persimmons no longer arrive in the mail. But a few years ago, when my grandmother died, we found a pretty spot in the woods where she lived and planted a persimmon tree in her honor. It was a leafless little stump, so we folded white paper cranes to hang on its bare branches. After a few years of maturing, grandma's tree began bearing the lovely little fruits that are one of the ephemeral gifts of autumn. The persimmons in the top photo came from her tree.
Sunomono of Persimmons and Daikon (Food Lover's Guide to Tokyo) Photos: Top, Kim Cross; Bottom, courtesy Anauxite on Flickr
Persimmon Cookies (Pinch My Salt)
Persimmon Gingerbread (Cooking Light)
Spiced Persimmon Salsa (Cooking Light)
Photos: Top, Kim Cross; Bottom, courtesy Anauxite on Flickr