In a land that benefits from the tinkering of an ambitious UC Davis agricultural program, it's hardly surprising to discover that the varieties of persimmons available to the average consumer has nearly doubled in the past decade. But regardless, persimmons generally fall into two categories – fuyus and hachiyas.
Fuyu-type persimmons are squat and round, looking a bit like an orange, flattened tomato, and are the instant gratification persimmon, eatable even when slightly unripe without any of the unpleasant puckering usually associated with eating an unripe, hyper-tannic hachiya-type. Current favorites are the brown-blushed Chocolate Fuyu and the enormous reddish Giant Fuyu – the size of a baby's head. They have an appley crispness and an easy, almost caramel-like sweetness.
Hachiyas used to be the dominant persimmon on the market, making up about 90% of the total California persimmon harvest as recently as 15 years ago. Heart-shaped and usually picked in the hard, immature stage for shipping reasons, the hachiya-type persimmons suffered from extremism. Most markets – both super and farmers – couldn't sell fully ripened hachiyas because their tissue-thin skin and pudding soft flesh often meant that the fruit would inevitably split open and be unsellable. The flip side is the unripe, rock hard hachiya, while strong enough to stack and toss into a bag without worry, is absolutely wretched on the tongue. The tannin concentration within is akin to drinking highly concentrated, bitter tea.
You have to let the fruit sit for a while, preferably shoulders down and out of sunlight. It's always worth the wait – the ripe hachiya is surpassed in sensuousness perhaps only by a really jammy fig. You don't eat it so much as slurp it. And the flavor is pure, globular sugar with only a very delicate citric-pumpkin-like suggestion that reminds you that yes, you actually are eating fruit and not something that should be spun up into cotton candy.
Regardless of your persimmon choice, they're in season from now until the end of the year, and sometimes beyond depending on the weather. If going the hard hachiya route, choose fruit with un-nicked skin. Freckling or a splash of brown coloring on the shoulders is common and is not a sign of bad fruit. This is not to be confused with bruising, which happens as the hachiya matures into ripeness. You can accelerate ripening by putting them in a paper bag with an apple – apples leech a gas called ethylene that speeds up the process. Fuyus require a little less fuss and can be eaten as soon as bought.
Pasadena Farmers Market, Victory Park, North Sierra Madre Boulevard and Paloma Street, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Torrance Farmers Market, Wilson Park, 2200 Crenshaw Blvd., 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Old Town Calabasas Farmers Market, 23504 Calabasas Rd., 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Long Beach Saturday Market (East Village), 400 East 1st Street, on 1st Between Elm and Linden, 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Felicia Friesema also writes More, please.