Persimmons have taken over my kitchen. I have baskets of persimmon all over the counter, some 15 cups of puree stacked in the freezer, and loaves of delicious persimmon walnut cake cooling on the dining table.
Persimmons are available between September and December, usually peaking sometime in November. There are many varieties of persimmons, but the two most common in the United States are the hachiya and fuyu.
The hachiya (left in photo above) is elongated and acorn shaped. They are quite tart when firm. Please do not eat them while there are unripe. Trust me, it does not taste pleasant. Ripe hachiyas are very sweet and juicy. As a child I used to freeze them, slice off the top and eat the inside of the fruit like sorbet. In my opinion, hachiyas are best for baking. Like any other fruit puree, it adds moisture and sweetness to baked goods.
The fuyu (right in photo) is much smaller and flatter than the hachiya. It sort of resembles a tomato. The fuyu is a little less intimidating to those new to the fruit. I like eating the fuyu raw. It is crisp like an apple. I like to peel the skin and quarter it into wedges. The fuyu is best eaten while it is still firm. I rarely use fuyu for baking, find it better for snacking and salads.
My parents have five persimmon trees in their backyard–three of the hachiya and two of the fuyu. My dad planted it 23 years ago when we moved into the house. It has been bearing fruit every autumn for as long as I can remember. Around this time every year, my mother brings shopping bags full of persimmon to neighbors and friends.
Most grocery stores carry the hachiya variety. They usually sell them while they are still very firm. When purchasing persimmons, look for plump ones that feel heavy for their size. Their skin should look smooth and glossy, without any bruises or blemishes. You can quickly ripen the fruit in a paper bag or just let them sit out at room temperature. As they ripen, they become deeper orange in color. You can notice the difference from the firm hachiya in the first photos to the soft wrinkly ones photographed with the baked cake. Once ripe, store the fruit in the fridge. Hachiyas turn overripe very quickly. I puree and freeze them once they are soft and save it for future uses.
This is my favorite persimmon recipe. Its similar in texture to banana nut bread, but persimmon is much milder in flavor than banana. It is a very moist and dense cake that tastes like autumn. This cake stores and freezes well. Once frozen, let the cake sit out at room temperature for a couple hours to let it thaw. Warm it in the microwave for a couple seconds or serve it at room temperature. Either way, it will taste as good as it did the day you baked it.
Persimmon Walnut Cake, adapted from David Lebovitz
makes one 9-inch loaf and five 5×3 inch mini loaves
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 cup light brown sugar packed
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
4 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
1/4 cup Jack Daniel’s Honey Whiskey
2 cups persimmon puree
2 cups walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
2 cups golden raisins, or diced dried fruit of your choice
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Sift together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and ground cinnamon. Place in large bowl and whisk in brown sugar and granulated sugar.
3. Make a well in the center of dry ingredients. Add in melted butter, eggs, liquor, and persimmon puree. Mix until combined. Fold in nuts and raisins.
4. Divide among loaf pans. Bake the 9-inch pan for an hour or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. The mini loaf pans should take about 45 minutes.