The hachiya persimmon is the edible fruit of a small tree that is native to China and Japan, but is now grown throughout the world. It has a soft astringent pulp that is very sweet when ripe and is eaten fresh or dried. The nutritious pulp tastes similar to pumpkin and is often used in baked goods. Hachiya persimmon fruit can usually be found in stores from late summer to mid-winter.
Persimmon fruit is ripe when it starts to lose shape and feels like it is full of jelly. The skin should be glossy and smooth and slightly red in color with no bruises or cracking. Fruit should be purchased when slightly under-ripe, as it will continue to ripen after it is picked.
Any fruit that is very ripe should be used immediately as it will become mushy very quickly. A hachiya persimmon can be ripened by placing it in a brown paper bag along with a banana or apple and stored at room temperature. The persimmon has a long shelf-life and also keeps`well in the refrigerator.
Hachiya and fuyu persimmons are the two varieties that are most commonly available. The fuyu persimmons are smaller and crisper, and look like flat tomatoes. Unlike the hachiya variety, fuyus are non-astringent and can be eaten when hard and unripe. They are better when sliced and eaten out of hand or added to salads. Both varieties are very high in vitamin c, providing about 14% of the daily requirement, and are also a good source of beta carotene and vitamin B6.
Frequently used in baking, the hachiya persimmon pulp can be seasoned with cinnamon and nutmeg and added to cookies and cakes to add moistness and flavor. It blends well with both chocolate and vanilla in baked goods as well. The versatile pulp is similar to apple butter in consistency and can be spread on toast, pancakes, or waffles to add sweetness, and can even be used instead of jelly in a peanut butter sandwich. Salsa can also be made from a blend of persimmon pulp, onions, chilies, herbs, and spices.
The hachiya persimmon trees produce fruit in the fall. In addition to their edible fruit, these trees are also grown for their ornamental flowers. They will grow in many different climates, but require warmer areas with several hours of direct sunlight each day to produce fruit. These trees are very susceptible to insect damage and are often sprayed with pesticides.