Eating Persimmons the Right Way

Whereas apples may be the fall fruit of choice in the US, persimmons reign supreme in Japan. Come late October, trees light up with not only red and yellow leaves, but with little orange fruits as well. In the countryside, people often grow or receive so many that they don't know what to do with all of it.

This past weekend, I went along with some of the people in my village to pick persimmons at one of their houses. We only did two trees, but that yielded two gigantic boxes full of fruit. My portion alone was more than 10 kg! Needless to say, I'll be eating them for weeks to come.

Boxes of fuyu and hachiya persimmons

Persimmons aren't a fruit that we see very often in the US, and so it makes sense that there can be some confusion around how to eat them properly, especially considering it isn't actually all that straightforward. So to help ensure that you have an optimal persimmon eating experience (and to take advantage of the abundance of persimmons that have recently come into my posession), here's a quick little guide that I put together.

There are two broad types of persimmons, and they are both eaten very differently. This is where most people make their mistake.

An unripe hachiya persimmon (left) and a fuyu persimmon (right)

The first type (right) is known in Japan as amagaki (甘柿) and in America as fuyu persimmon (in Japan there are many varieties of amagaki, and fuyu is one of them). They have a round, flat shape and are sweet at any point of ripeness. When they're hard like apples, they're crunchy with a brighter flavor. When they're softer like a peach, they're juicier and sweeter.

The skin is edible and not too tough, so you can eat it simply by biting into it, though many people also prefer to peel the skin off and slice it. Fuyu persimmons are pretty versatile, and you can often find them in cakes or jams as well.

The second type (left) is called shibugaki (渋柿) in Japan and hachiya persimmon in America (again, in Japan hachiya are a single type of shibugaki). These are more oblong and come to a point. Hachiyas CANNOT BE EATEN WHEN THEY ARE HARD. They are extremely astringent, and eating them will feel like all of the moisture from the inside of your mouth has withered away. Even if you tend to like your fruits on the unripe/bitter side, you will not like this, I guarantee you.

So! In order to eat hachiyas fresh, you need to wait until they are ripe beyond ripe. Like, softer than an overripe tomato with its juices bursting out through the skin ripe (below). If you saw another fruit in this state you'd definitely throw it away, but this is the perfect ripeness for a hachiya persimmon. To eat it, just pull off the stem portion and dig in with a spoon! It doesn't at all taste overripe and has a surprisingly mild sweetness. I've found that it pairs well with things like yogurt or chia pudding.

A ripe hachiya persimmon

If you're not a huge fan of mushy fruits but don't want to waste your hachiyas, you can also dry them! You need to start this process while they're still hard though, and be warned that it takes a few weeks, but then you've got perfectly preserved persimmons ready to last you the winter.

Because I've got so many persimmons, I'm trying my hand at drying some myself this year. While I won't know how they'll turn out for another few weeks, this is the process that I followed:

  1. Cut the stems so that they form a T-shape.

  2. Peel the entire fruit except for the top leaves/stem.

  3. Take a 2-foot piece of string and tie it to the stems of two persimmons - one on each end.

  4. Boil water and dunk the fruits in for 5-10 seconds to minimize surface bacteria.

  5. Hang in a covered place outside that gets sun and and wind. Hang the fruits so that they sit unevenly and don't hit each other.

  6. And then wait for 3-4 weeks!

Hachiya persimmons (渋柿) being left out to dry

We're entering the season when my area doesn't get much sun, and I'm not super confident that they'll be safe from the rain, but I'm excited to see how they turn out!