What is a persimmon?
A roundish, orange-ish, sweetish fruit of about medium size (which is to say, neither largish nor smallish). Its skin is glossy like a tomato’s, though that’s pretty much where the similarity ends. Persimmons are unique in that varieties of them occur naturally all around the northern hemisphere. They’re native not only to North America, but to Mexico and many parts of Europe, North Africa and Asia.
They vary quite a bit in size, taste and appearance depending on where you find them. In America persimmons grow in the eastern and southeastern part of the country, and as a rule are quite small, rather hard and usually dry (the word “persimmon” is in fact a Cree Indian word for “dry fruit”).
Asian varieties, on the other hand, tend to be quite a bit larger and more succulent. This is why, when you go searching for persimmons in grocery stores, you usually find cultivars named things like kaki, hachiya and fuyu (hey, fuyu too, buddy!). Many of these varieties were imported to the West Coast in the 1800’s, where they are still grown.
What do persimmons taste like? Not entirely unlike an apricot, though they can be a lot sweeter. They’re also more gelatinous on the inside, which can give one the impression that persimmons are actually small containers of jam that grow on trees. That’s how I think of them, anyway, at least when they’re ripe. And therein lies the rub…