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What grows like an apple, looks like a tomato, is the color of a pumpkin and tastes like nothing else on earth?
There can only be one answer to that riddle, and it’s the persimmon. And while this fruit is truly one-of-a-kind, thankfully there are more than one kind of persimmon out there—because man, they taste good.
Maybe you’ve seen them in the farmer’s market back alley or spied them in the specialty aisle at the grocery store. But wherever they’re found, persimmons seem to have a bit of an air of mystery about them – almost like a halo effect.
And it seems scientists would agree. The fruit’s technical genus is called diospyros, which essentially translates, in English, to “divine fruit.”
That heavenly nickname could be a nod to their brilliant orange hue, but the descriptor is most likely a tribute to their taste, which comes out something like a cross between cinnamon mango and roasted pepper– the perfect combination of sweet, tangy and rich.
The enigmatic fruit has a difficult flavor to describe, which is maybe why so many have turned to poetry to capture the persimmon’s essence. There are thousands of haikus dedicated to the sweet subjects in their native Japan, where the persimmon stands in as the national fruit.
And farmers have apparently taken note. Since it’s pretty hard to improve on the divine, they’ve left the crop mostly be, and as a result, there aren’t too many different types of persimmons in the world. (Another way of looking at it: Every type of persimmon out there is a proven winner.)
Still, the fruit’s cultivars are importantly categorized into two broad groups, with very different qualities indicating their shape, texture and ripeness.
The only way you could go wrong is by biting into an unripe persimmon—trust us, that’s an experience that’s all the wrong kinds of one-of-a-kind.
Astringent persimmons can be most readily recognized by their oblong, or somewhat acorn-like, shapes and – when they’re ripe – a squishy feel.
That’s because inside these types of persimmons is a sweet gooey pulp that almost mimics the texture of ice cream.
In fact, most people will eat it like the summertime treat, too – scooping spoonfuls straight out of the inside. Though these kinds of persimmons are also used for baking, with the pulp making for a delicious and colorful additive to puddings, cookies or cake.
But beware: Anything less than a solid squish and these fruits will reveal why they're categorized under a word that means “acidic.”
Unripe astringent persimmons, which still feel hard to the touch, are kind of like a shook up can of soda: You think you’re going in for a sweet treat and then – bang! – you’re hit with a face-smacking surprise.
Luckily, the ripening process only takes a few days of persimmon sunbathing on the countertop – or, if you’re looking to speed things up a bit, pairing the fruit in a paper bag with a banana.
But, believe us, all that patience pays off, yielding one of the world’s tastiest bites of fruit, including:
- Hachiya persimmon: A cultivar so popular it’s virtually the only type of astringent persimmon on the market, this Japenese-bred varietal sports the perfect persimmon acorn shape, shiny orange skin, and reputation for punching up the taste of any baked good.
- Texas persimmon: Native to the Southern United States, these types of persimmons ripen to a dark purple or black.
- Indian persimmon: Astringent is right! This varietal, which skews a yellow-green color, is too acidic for most pallets – though that quality makes it perfect for its many uses in Ayurvedic medicine.
The low-hanging fruit of the persimmon family tree, these berries are much easier to eat when they aren’t quite ripe.
Non-astringent persimmons are shorter and squatter than their more acidic cousins, representing more of a tomato or apple. And like apples, they’re also hard, and shouldn’t have much give, no matter how ripe they are.
That all leads to a satisfying crunchy bite into delicious sweet and tangy flesh – and non-astringent persimmons can easily be eaten out of hand this way, though they’re also often sliced and layered into salads or on top of other dessert dishes.
Like the astringent Hachiya, non-astringent persimmons have a major cultivar representative in the Fuyu, which is the primary type of persimmon you’ll find in farmers markets, the grocery store or nearly anywhere else.
Fuyus are known to taste something like a Fuji apple when they’re at their best. Still, there are a few other non-astringent types of persimmons out there, including:
- Sharon persimmon: A short, plump and practically seedless varietal named for the Israeli river valley where it’s primarily grown today.
- Mabolo persimmon: A Southeast Asia native, this cultivar sports a striking red hue, which lends to its nicknames: the velvet apple, and the Korean mango.
- Chocolate persimmon: The name says it all, with this cultivar rocking a brown-streaked flesh and faintly chocolate-like flavor. (As if persimmons couldn’t get any better?)
Yet, you certainly don’t have to go for a chocolate persimmon to guarantee yourself a sweet treat.