Persimmons are in peak season from late October to late February. Two basic varieties come to markets: the heart-shaped Hachiya that must soften completely before losing its astringency and the smaller, rounder Fuyu that can be enjoyed while still firm. Crisp and sweet, Fuyu persimmons pair well with darker salad greens such as spinach, frisee, and endive. Though they require long ripening at room temperature, Hachiya persimmons reward the patient cook with a rich, sweet flavor that epitomizes the harvest season. They are delicious in cakes, puddings, quick breads, and ice creams.
Choose plump fruits that are heavy for their size and free of blemishes. Their skin should be smooth and shiny, with no hint of yellow. Look for intact stem caps that are firm and green, not gray or brittle.
Once ripe, persimmons should be eaten right away or refrigerated in a plastic bag for up to 2 days.
Ripen Hachiya persimmons inverted on their caps until extremely soft. Unless using a food mill, Hachiyas must be peeled before cooking or puréeing. The Fuyu variety may be served with its skin on or peeled for a more delicate texture. If the persimmons are too hard to use, speed up the ripening by placing them inside a paper bag with a banana or apple.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Cooking from the Farmers’ Market, by Tasha DeSerio & Jodi Liano (Weldon Owen, 2010).