Having grown up in New England, I had never heard of persimmons until my junior year of college, when I lived in Israel, where persimmons (called Sharon fruit there) are abundant and sweet — magnificently sweet. A little floral and a lot magical, sort of like a blend of mango, papaya, peach and apricot, persimmons were unlike anything I’d ever tasted, and I couldn’t get enough of them.
When I returned to the States, finally found one and bit into it — pucker, pucker, my mouth was bitter and dry as if I was eating chalk. That was when I learned there are astringent and nonastringent persimmons. The astringent ones, like Hachiyas, which look like giant orange acorns, have to be so ripe that they are like mush when you eat them, lest the tannins get the better of you. The Israelis, I learned, had discovered a method of removing the tannins from the squat, tomato-shaped Fuyu persimmons that I ate in Israel, rendering them nonastringent and incredibly sweet regardless of their ripeness.
We have both types here in Southern California. Sliced into salads, baked into cakes, puréed and cooked into jellies and puddings, blended into drinks or churned into sorbets, this versatile winter fruit lends its unique flavor to all sorts of culinary treats. These recipes will help you enjoy the persimmon.