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Seek Out New Life Forms - What is a Persimmon?

By Anthony Todd in Food on Oct 21, 2010 6:20PM

Back for another installment of Seek Out New Life Forms, the column where we investigate strange and mysterious creatures of the grocery store. Today's candidate for cutting and probing is the Persimmon, an odd little orange fruit that has never darkened our doorstep before.

The Persimmon is a tree fruit. It is bright orange, quite attractive, and associated (in the U.S.) with Christmas, which is when they tend to become available in the grocery stores. We've always seen them in the winter, and occasionally friends have have used them as decorative objects, but we'd never actually handled one. They are very firm, and have no smell to speak of. There are several varieties, and the one available in most grocery stores is the Hachiya persimmon.

Against the instructions of many websites, we decided to cut one open and take a (small) bite. Warning - do not try this at home. The persimmon is not edible raw, and has so much tannic acid that it made the quince seem like a honeycrisp apple. The moment it touched our tongue, it felt like the inside of our mouth had curled up into a tight ball and started crying. Apparently, after freezing the fruit becomes more edible.

Recipes for persimmons usually involve desserts. When cooked down, they can make a nice, mild, sweet flavoring in pie, cheesecakes and tarts, usually combined with another fruit. We found an interesting recipe for persimmon bread (that we intend to use with the 98% of the fruit that is left over after our eating experiment) and some recipes for persimmon jello, if you're a person looking to spice up your jello salads. Have you experimented with this fruit? How did it go?