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Persimmons are hitting the markets. Here’s what to do with them when you get them home

(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Persimmons have an identity problem -- or rather, cooks have an identity problem with persimmons. They come in two very different packages, which shouldn’t be confused.

The Hachiya persimmon is the acorn-shaped one, and buyer beware -- it needs to be almost melting in texture before you eat it. Taste too early and you’ll come away with a mouth full of tannin.

You can speed the ripening process by placing the persimmons in a brown paper bag with apples or bananas -- they emit naturally occurring ethylene gas, which triggers the ripening process. Some cooks recommend freezing Hachiyas; in my experience this softens them (once they’ve thawed), but it doesn’t improve the flavor.

You’ve got none of these worries with Fuyus. These are the smaller and flatter persimmons -- they look a little like a tomato -- and they can be eaten rock-hard and still be absolutely delicious. Left at room temperature, the Fuyu will also soften to custard, eventually, but you’ll gain little by doing that.

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(And as my favorite persimmon farmer, Jeff Rieger from Penryn Orchards, would surely point out, this is oversimplifying a complex family -- there are several different varieties in each family, but for the sake of sanity, we call them by these two names.)

It’s ironic that such a sweet, simple fruit can cause so much confusion. Because, really, Fuyu persimmons are one of fall’s easiest treats. They’re so good eaten right out of hand that there really isn’t much use in fussing over them.

A great, simple way to serve Fuyus: Cut the fruit into bite-sized pieces and toss lime juice and chopped cilantro to make a terrific quick fall salad.

Hachiya’s are easy too, once they’re ripened. Here’s a simple way to them: Place the fruit upside-down in a bowl and cut through the skin in quarters; spoon in a dollop of bourbon-flavored whipped cream and sprinkle with chopped toasted walnuts.

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How to choose: Whichever type you’re choosing, look for fruit that’s a deep, rich fall orange. With Hachiyas, you can buy them firm, but just be aware that you’ll have to leave them at room temperature for a few days to soften before you can use them. At least some persimmon lovers insist that Hachiyas with a black streak will be sweeter than those without. With Fuyus, you just want firm fruit without blemishes.

How to store: You really want to keep persimmons at room temperature for as long as you can. When you refrigerate them, they suffer chill damage quite quickly and will develop soft slimy spots.

Are you a food geek? Follow me on Twitter @russ_parsons1

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