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When we Californians think of persimmons, we think of two Chinese varieties much cultivated in Japan — the hard, nonastringent Fuyu that can be peeled, sliced and eaten like an apple that’s entering our stores and markets now; and the heart-shaped, orange...

In Season: Hachiya persimmon a sweet, fall treat

When we Californians think of persimmons, we think of two Chinese varieties much cultivated in Japan — the hard, nonastringent Fuyu that can be peeled, sliced and eaten like an apple that’s entering our stores and markets now; and the heart-shaped, orange...

In Season: Hachiya persimmon a sweet, fall treat

When we Californians think of persimmons, we think of two Chinese varieties much cultivated in Japan — the hard, nonastringent Fuyu that can be peeled, sliced and eaten like an apple that’s entering our stores and markets now; and the heart-shaped, orange Hachiya that must ripen until it turns to sweet goo.

We find that one in November and December.

But there are two persimmon varieties native to North America. One is native to Texas and produces small fruits; the other is native to the mid-southern states like Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee, called the putchamin, an Algonquin word from which our name persimmon derives.

Captain John Smith, who wrote “The General History of Virginia” in 1624, had this to say about the putchamin, and it holds true for the Hachiya, too: “If it be not ripe, it will draw a man’s mouth awry, with much torment, but when it is ripe, it is as delicious as an apricot.”

The Asian persimmons arrived in California about the time of the Gold Rush and, like so many fruits and vegetables, fell in love with our climate. The Hachiyas, especially, grow into healthy trees between 20 and 30 feet tall and can be loaded down with fruit that glow orange in the late fall and winter sun after the leaves fall.

A lot of this fruit ripens on the tree, where birds peck it open and ruin it for human consumption, or falls to the ground unused. This is a shame, because Hachiya persimmons are a glorious taste treat. Let them ripen on a windowsill. The hard texture will soften, the orange color will turn orange brown, and eventually, when it looks like the fruit is hopeless rotten, it’s ready to eat. The flesh inside will lose its astringency and become like a clear, reddish, jellied pudding. If this jelly turns brown and sloppy, though, it’s past its point of optimum quality.

Fuyus, too, will soften and sweeten up. But they are nothing like a Hachiya when it reaches its perfect moment.

How to use the sweet pudding of a Hachiya? Simpler can be better. Spoon it over vanilla ice cream, or plop a big spoonful of yogurt on it and dig in. Mix the jelly with meats like pork or chicken. Use it to make a persimmon semifreddo. Or do what the Japanese do.

If you have access to a Hachiya tree, pick a bunch when the fruit is fully colored but still hard. Leave a little bit of the branch attached — just an inch or so of the stem. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the fruit without breaking off the piece of stem. Tie a string to each stem and tie the other end of the string to a pole suspended horizontally in a warm, dry place so the fruits are hanging free.

Over the next six weeks, they will turn brown. Pinch the flesh occasionally to break up the pulp and promote even drying. When they are leathery, they’re taken down from the pole and placed in a box lined with wax paper, with wax paper folded over the top of them. Then the lid of the box is put on. They turn white over the next month or so as the sweating sugar crystallizes on their surfaces.

Our editors found this article on this site using Google and regenerated it for our readers.

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