The persimmon is a fruit that originated in China, though it is grown in many other countries. When ripe, the persimmon's color ranges from light orange or yellow to a dark red or dark orange. The size of the fruit can be very small or quite large; the size, color and taste all depend on the type of cultivar grown. The entire fruit is edible, except for the seeds and the calyx -- the green leaves at the top of the persimmon where the stem is located. How you prepare and eat the persimmon will depend on the persimmon cultivar and the recipe.
Astringent cultivar types are those that have a very sharp and biting taste, or cause the mouth to pucker when you bite into the fruit. The taste can be compared to a lemon, since lemons are also very astringent. The entire fruit except for the stem and seeds can be eaten; however, the fruit needs to be very soft before it has desirable flavors for eating. Astringent persimmons are typically used in baking and cooking as the addition of sugar will reduce the astringency. Removal of the seeds before eating is important since it is the seeds that are very astringent in these cultivars. Astringent cultivars include Saijo, Eureka, Honan Red, Tamopan, Hachiya, Triumph and Tanenashi.
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Non-astringent persimmon cultivars can be eaten just like a raw apple. In fact, the persimmon is eaten when it is crisp, just like a ripe apple. Though as with apples you do not want to eat the seeds or the stem or calyx. As long as the non-astringent persimmon is firm, it is edible. Persimmons actually keep much longer than other fruit at cool temperatures. Non-astringent persimmons are best used in salads or dishes that call for raw and uncooked persimmons. Types of non-astringent persimmons include the Imoto, Fuyu, Gosho, Maekawaiiro, Jiro, Izu, Suruga and Okugosho.
Persimmons can be cooked in many different ways, depending on the recipe. They can be cut up raw and served with a platter of fruits and cheeses. The persimmon can be peeled and served alongside a salad. Persimmon can also be frozen, peeled and used to create sweet sauces for desserts. Chop up a persimmon to add a tart but sweet flavor to your favorite salsa recipe, or stew the fruit and add it to puddings, cakes and jams.
A persimmon is ripe when it is firm or slightly soft to the touch without being mushy. Astringent cultivars are softer than non-astringent cultivars when ripe. The skin should be brightly colored, soft and free of blemishes. You can buy unripe persimmons and leave them out at room temperature until they are ripe. Alternatively, you can purchase ripe persimmons and place them in the refrigerator to keep the fruit ripe for several days.