The one time I took a bite of a persimmon (at the urging of a cousin), I spit it out. Since then, the only thing I've done with persimmons is put them in a centerpiece at Thanksgiving. With their deep yellow-to-orange color, they look great. I should have been more curious. This native Virginia tree (Diospyros virginiana) has more going for it than meets the eye.
Good for what ails you
American Indians used persimmons for a variety of ailments. According to the University of Michigan, the fruit was used to combat diarrhea, heartburn, indigestion, sore throats and toothaches. The Indians also ate the fruit for the sheer pleasure of its flavor.
Give them time
When you taste a persimmon that isn't ripe, the inside of your mouth will immediately feel like someone put a vacuum cleaner in there and removed all your saliva. That's the result of the astringent tannins. If you leave one on the counter, however, and wait a little longer until it feels practically mushy when you press on it, you'll taste a soft, sweet fruit reminiscent of apricots.
A festival of its own
If you'd like to learn everything you can about persimmons, eat bushels of them and score a sheaf of recipes, visit Edible Landscaping's Annual Persimmon Festival (361 Spirit Ridge Lane in Afton, near Waynesboro) on Oct. 30 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call (434) 361-9134 or visit ediblelandscaping.com.
Native and non-native
There are several different varieties, but the kinds that you see growing out in the country (or in your neighbor's yard) are generally the native variety, while the persimmons available at the grocery store (from September to October) are usually Asian — nearly always the Hachiya variety, although the less common Fuyu can occasionally be found. The Hachiya, like the Virginia persimmon, is meant to be eaten when it's absolutely ripe, or you'll probably want to spit it out, too. The Fuyu has less tannic acid and can be eaten when it's firm and crisp.
Persimmon Smoothie Michael McConkey of Edible Landscaping's Annual Persimmon Festival in Afton contributed this. He describes it as "one of the best breakfast smoothies I know. Thick, orange and smooth. Delicious chilled."
- 2 Asian persimmons about 3 inches in diameter (Native varieties that are completely soft and ripe can be used, but you'll need to increase the number to six persimmons.)
- 1 cup of orange juice
- 1 tablespoon of honey
Remove the calyx (the leafy bloom end), halve the persimmons and check them for seeds. Some varieties are seedless, but remove seeds if not. Cut the fruit into pieces and place in a blender. Add the orange juice and the tablespoon of honey, or to taste. Blend the mixture until smooth. Pour it over ice, and serve in a clear glass since it's so orange and pretty. Makes 1 serving.