considering the persimmon.

persimmons, again.

i have a rather...perplexed history with the persimmon, from my first mistake of eating an unripe hachiya variety (astrigent and nasty), to my second mistake of eating a ripe hachiya (globular and blobular), to finally finding the relatively agreeable fuyu (pictured above), whose bold outward appearance belies its rather delicate taste and pervasive sweetness. i admit, i once found that one-note and boring, but now i find pleasing and possessing of hidden depths [insert conclusions about my changing taste in men, shoes and dishes here].

i love the way the persimmon looks. it's one of the most beautiful fruit i've seen, complex in its apparent simplicity, both stately and understated. its smooth curves and barely contained tumescence are offset by an almost severe oriental ornamentation of withering sepal. there is the colour: that burnished hue of orange that recalls warning signals and antiquity, yet is also safe and alive. there is nothing perfect about it--it's too fat, too squat, mottled, uneven, either far too hard or bruisingly soft if not caught at the right moment. its exterior practically taunts you to admire it, but once open you are faced with a dense expanse of flesh with no real core that only confounds you more. you expect fire and heat, but get a gentle sweetness that reminds me of thin nectar sipped from wildflowers, and, a surprising touch of exotic spice, like a waft of indian incense clinging to a shimmer of cool silk. elise tells tale that the best persimmons are picked under a full moon; the spiciness of which i speak is found in the freckled flesh finessed by such literal lunacy. if a persimmon was a person, it would be pre-mick jagger violated sophie dahl: all curves, bombast, and bragadoccia, but lush and decadent, and inside as sweet and innocent as the BFG's captive she was purported to be.

the question, time and again: what do you do with a persimmon? eat it, of course. but how is it prepared? elise's solution: slice it, stab it, devour it. this is the purest way, really, to take in the flavour, but it decimates its outward beauty, takes it out of its skin. truly, there are no recipes that can preserve that. however, i wanted to explore the changing nature of the persimmon (specifically the fuyu, as it is typical for this region), through various cooking techniques, to find the beauty within.

not surprisingly, the japanese seem to understand persimmons. aesthetics seem to have a higher priority in japanese cuisine than most others, and one of the ideas is that of shibui, or beauty that is inherent in something that occurs naturally--not only in appearance, but also the taste, and presentation. whilst this idea has austere connotations, i think it also denotes a respect for the natural state of an object, or as natural as it can be within a circumstance. the japanese recipes i have seen do not try to treat the persimmon as a substitute for another fruit, nor do they mask its properties. it is for this reason that i turned to my two latest cookbooks, eric gower's "the breakaway japanese kitchen" and "shunju" by takashi sugimoto, for recipes that might best respect the quixotic nature of this fruit.

persimmon balsamic chicken

the first recipe i tried was an adaptation of gower's persimmon balsamic chicken: poached chicken breast, with a sauce made from ripe persimmon, balsamic vinegar, and a little olive oil. the fruit is thoroughly cooked; as the pulp and balsamic reduce, the fruit becomes completely unrecognizable as what it is, both in form and taste. it becomes a viscous, unctuous, pungent spiced jam that gains a sort of meatiness, extra body. ask anyone, and it won't be identified; however, take it away, and you no longer have a remarkable sauce. surprisingly, the chicken (poached in a gingery broth) stands up well to the strong reduction, mellowing it out considerably, and benefitting from the sweet and sour blend.

persimmon with yogurt and mint

the next recipe is a faithful reproduction of gower's persimmon yogurt salad with ginger, red onion, and mint. the persimmon isn't cooked here, but peeled and sliced thinly, and combined with the other ingredients. here the persimmon is somewhat recognizable, but its flavour is enhanced by the tart yogurt, the pungent onion, and refreshing mint. all the ingredients meld together, yet remain wholly distinct.

persimmon  with brown sugar meringue

the final recipe is an interpretation of shunju's persimmons and brown-sugar meringue: discs of brown sugar meringue layered with whipped cream and slices of persimmon soaked in a simple sugar syrup. you would think that all the sugar combined with the natural sweetness of the fruit would make this an aching proposition, but no, it is simply a revelation. the sugar syrup makes the fruit softer in texture and brings out the natural spiciness; the brown sugar gives the meringues a mocha-like nuttiness; the cream lends just the right amount of rich silkiness. when you slide a forkful into your mouth, the whole thing collapses into a whisper of sweetness and light, of lush and longing for more.

have i come to any conclusions? no. but if i did, this dessert could be the perfect one....

**thanks to the girl who ate everything and man that cooks for their help in this post.**


I LOVE PERSIMMONS! Or. I <3 <3 <3 PERSIMMONS! Just the fuyu ones though, as the other ones are too blobular, yeah? Yeah. I have a baf of 20 persimmons in the fridge right now. Heeheehee. (rubs hands together)

I've never made anything out of persimmons; I just peel them and greedily chomp down. They seem to disappear in seconds. I don't generally like to do anything with fruit...cos I'm lazy. And. I LOVE PERSIMMONS!

The persimmon + meringue sure looks good though. Ooh.

(Glad I could be of some help! Does that mean I'm learning stuff in school? Whoa!)

i've bought dried persimmons in Sacramento, dried in traditional japanese fashion. There's a good article from the Sacramento Bee on it. I'll email it to you when I dig it up.

You've certainly challenged my dislike of persimmons... I used to dread being force-fed them as a child and have never bought one voluntarily. Now that I live somewhere they're more available, maybe it's time for a reconciliation. ;)

What a fantastic post Santos! So what do you look for when you're picking these out? Is it OK if they look past their prime?

Hi Santos,

I was attracted to that particular recipe in Shunju as I had wanted to have some persimmons recently. I still have the recipe you gave me last year and it's in the kitchen....so I think I'll be making it this week.

The post was wonderful...

BTW...did I ask last time if these were from your parent's house?

hi robyn! thanks for your help--i think you ARE learning something, heh.
and i think you'd like the persimmon meringue thing a lot.

hi mila--thanks! i'm looking forward to reading it.

hi bramble--i know what you mean. i wasn't very fond of them as a child, but i like this savoury approach more than using the fruit in sweets. having said that, this brown sugar meringue thing rocked the house down.

hi cathy! most of the persimmons i come across are still a little hard, but if they are soft and a little bruised, i'm assuming they are super-sweet and probably decent for eating as is. i'll bet they'd be good for something like a steamed pudding or baked dessert (this is a recipe i made last year). i wouldn't pick up anything with black or brown blemishes though.

hi reid! persimmons don't grow here :( i don't think it gets cold enough. these are air-flown in from korea, i think, but we get them from japan and san diego, too. the last big batch i had was from my uncle's backyard in tulare (get well soon, unc!).

I'd be happier wiith persimmons if they didn't look like tomatoes so I don't get a taste disconnect. They're a bit like the savoury custards chawanmushi (sp?)

I admire your persistencemon

you say "tomato", i say "get your eyes checked"--anthony, most tomatoes are red.

bwah. no, i know exactly what you mean, although it hasn't been a problem for me so far. although, i rather like the idea of making some sort of pasta dish with a persimmon sauce, insteada tomata sauce.

and i admire that you go with the flow.

that last picture is pure perfection!

I'm partially red-green colour blind. Ishihara tests just do me and I sometimes wonder what my photos actually look like after I've been messing around in photshop. The persimmons do look kinda red.

hi maria! that meringue thing was purdy darn special.

anthony--doesn't seem to have harmed your photos at all. i wonder what they'd look like if you weren't a bit colourblind.

I wonder, it's a funny and maddening thing to think about being trapped in our own little worldviews that we can't just step out of.

are you talking about being colourblind or being blind to something else?

I cannot think of persimmons without thinking of that wonderful poem by Li-Young Lee.

Thanks for visiting my site. I've been by here now a couple of times and I am charmed by your affection and sensibilities toward food.


I've just recently discovered persimmons and I am kicking myself for not looking through Eric Gower's book, which is sitting on my bookshelf!

Looks like I'm off to the market, again. As though that is a bad thing...

Wow, you also have the Breakaway Japanese Kitchen AND Shunju?? I bought both those books at the same time last year. Awesome books, huh?


I love persimmons even the blobular gooey ones. Actually in Korea Persimmon sorbet and ice cream is popular. One way if you are forced to eat the bobular one is to peel it and 1/2 freeze it. It has a texture kind of like sorbet but alittle more icier. Pretty good treat!

hello houston, thank you for your kind words. you know, you've summed up my attitude towards food perfectly--not quite love, but very much an affection towards it. thank you for that, as well. that poem is lovely! i found quite a few haiku with persimmon as the subject, it seems to inspire quite a few people.

hello atabela--no, nothing wrong with that at all :)

hi amparo--yes, they're great! i'm having a difficult time tearing myself away from them. i could easily go through both books (if i could find all the ingredients that is).

hi milgwimper--we don't see the blobular ones around here much, but i'd definitely like to try that! perhaps next time i'm on the mainland, that sounds like a treat.

Hi folks -- I'm actually making persimmon ice cream right now (in May?? they're from Chile), so I was googling around and found this site. I want to thank Santos for making my humble persimmon dishes. Yours look much better than mine!