How I learned to love my persimmon tree

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(Click photos to enlarge)

When we moved into our house four or five years ago, I tasted one of the persimmons growing on the tree in our yard. It was a nice orange color, so I assumed it was ripe and ready to eat. I peeled off the skin and took a bite. It was awful, like sticking a spoonful of alum in my mouth. I threw the accursed fruit in the trash.

The next year I read that persimmons tasted better if you soaked them in brine first. I tried it. It was like eating a salty styptic pencil.

The year after that, someone told me to wait until the fruits were mushy. I waited. The few that made it to the mushy stage without being violated by squirrels were delicious, and had a custard-like texture.

This year, I read an article in the Oct/Nov 2008 issue of Mother Earth News, written by Winifred Bird, titled "Finding the Good Life in Japan." Bird is living the self-sufficient good life in rural Japan with her husband. In the article she explains how to dry persimmons the Japanese way.

If you want to try it yourself, use astringent persimmons, such as ‘Hachiya’ or ‘Honan Red.’ Pick or buy fruits when they are orange but still hard and inedible. If picking them yourself, use a clipper and cut the stem twig so it forms a small T above the fruit for easy hanging. Peel the fruit with a knife or vegetable peeler. Use sturdy string to tie the fruits from their twigs in a line, so they do not touch when hung vertically. Hang outside in a place that is protected from rain and snow, such as from nails or a horizontal pole under the eaves of the house. (I have also had luck drying persimmons without stems using clips or on flat baskets – just make sure to turn often.) When the fruit begins to soften (one to two weeks), gently squeeze and massage each one. Repeat this after a few more weeks. They are done when dark brown, leathery and shrunken, but not overly hard – about one or two months. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or a cool, dry place. Enjoy Japanese style, as a snack with roasted green tea (hojicha) or ginger tea.
I'm trying it out. Photos of my persimmons shown above. I'll let you know how it goes.


  1. Persimmon pudding, cake, and bread are all long standing staples of Midwestern food from the very early days of Ohio Valley settlement by whites. The name persimmon is even derived from Eastern Native American names for the fruit.

    The American persimmon is very different from Japanese persimmons. They are definitely a little finicky to get right and persimmon trees don’t produce good persimmons every year (depending on weather etc). However, when they do it is a wonderful treat.

    I do feel bad for the folks that have them in residential yards as it seems they would make a big mess. On my aunts farm we just go out and get recently fallen ones and let them ripen a little indoors nothing fancy. Persimmon pudding is one of the best dishes I have ever had. It is also one of those rare “old time” dishes that is hard to find.

  2. Persimmons are a family tradition in my family. The easiest thing to do is pick them when they’re hard and orange and keep them in your fruit bowl or on your windowsill inside for a few weeks until they soften. That way you don’t have to worry about animals stealing them when they’re ripe and they taste just as good.

    I’ve never tried them dried, it sounds cool though and I’ll definitely test it out.

  3. I don’t know what kind of magic (ethylene or nitrogen?) the distributor to the supermarket uses, but the ones that I buy are firm, still orange (not browned at all), and tasty.

  4. I’ve got two black persimmon (or “Chocolate Pudding Fruit”) trees and I’m just waiting for them to finally start fruiting.

  5. You can also cut open the seeds to tell if we’re going to have a bad winter as well. I know of some older people that still do this.

  6. This depends on the variety. We had four fuju persimmon trees at our old house and would eat them just like apples. They were very tasty. Unlike the other kinds, they are meant to be eaten when firm.

    Trader Joes was selling them dried for a while, but stopped recently. :-(

  7. Hmm, I thought everybody knew about freezing fresh persimmons. My family has taken the bright, orange, hard persimmons and put them in the freezer for longer than I can remember. After they freeze, you can eat em cold or let em thaw if you want. This seems to cure the illness problems typically associated with the fruit, and makes them more palatable in my opinion. Everyone I know who has a tree does the same thing as well. Perhaps this tradition is local to Texas? I didn’t see anything on wiki about it…

  8. I was at the Farmers market this weekend and overheard two young girls talking as they sampled a persimmon from one of the vendors. The first girl said to the other girl, “It’s like an apple and a ? had a baby.” Sorry I can’t remember what the other fruit she referred to but it made me chuckle at the time.

  9. My best friend’s mom in Stockton has a hachiya persimmon tree – ie the flat kind of persimmon and I looked forward to a huge bag of it every fall. It is sweet and you just crunch into it while it is hard. I think fuyu is the pointy kind.
    When it is nice and soft, Fuyu is sweet and delicate and I make the best persimmon whisky bread out of it – yummmy!!
    Here in Aizu Wakamatsu, on the island of Honshu, Japan, you can find persimmon trees on temple grounds, graveyards, people’s home and we came upon a huge persimmon orchard. Right about now, it is quite a sight with thousands of orange lanterns. But, they are bitter, horrible…twee tweee…blech. No wonder no one steals them off the trees!
    Personally, I have never eaten the dried shrivelled kind and thanks for the info – I wondered why they hang them – they looked unappetising and rotten!
    My friend Hiroko san told me how to sweeten it: pluck them firm, put them in an airtight container and spray with shojou – potato wine that you can buy real cheap with about 15% alcohol content – and then cover and leave for a month. I guess the alcohol will leach the bitterness out. However, it is not as sweet as my friend’s persimmon in Stockton, California.
    Read my blog on persimmons:

  10. And of course sour persimmons actually entered American speech, at least for a while. Viz Daffy in “Duck Amuck”:

    Right about 4:25.

  11. I was always taught not to try to eat persimmons (at least the kind that grow wild in the Midwest) until after the frost sweetened them. I think, looking back, that some will ripen to sweetness before the first frost, but really a good freeze makes all the difference in the world.

    And there’s very little better than gran’s black walnut persimmon bread with icing glaze on top. Oh. My. God. Good.

  12. Mbobich, we always froze and thawed them before eating too. This was in Russia. It makes them pretty damn delicious, and makes their texture even more unusual.

  13. After living in Japan for ten years and living with a Japanese family (my wife’s) for the past three, I can positively say, no matter how you prepare persimmons, they still taste like crap.

  14. OMG I saw persimmons at the Santa Monica farmer’s market by the beach today (Wednesday, October 8, 2008). Soooo early this year! I only saw the smaller fujus, crisp and yummy when hard like an apple. But I let them ripen and get soft too: the softer, the sweeter. The big Hachiyas must be soft and custard-like or they taste awful (as you found out!). Don’t eat those too near the stem, even when soft. Do what someone wrote: pick and ripen in your kitchen. I never found freezing to be effective, although obviously others use that method.

    Most people ripen fruit by putting into paper bags, which traps the gas which fruit release during ripening (ethylene).

    The gas condenses, so fruit can trap moisture and become rotten. You MUST open the bag and check the fruit at least once or twice a day, every day!

    I found amazing fruit ripening bowls online a few years ago, but are no longer available. They look like big clear balls, with a clear bottom and top with air holes on the top. IF we get enough for 2500 orders, the manufacturer will do a run! What a shame, because I can’t live without mine!

    I use my four to ripen avocados, stone fruit, persimmons and bananas all year long. I still have to wipe down the tops and sides at times. I still must touch and smell the fruit because not all ripen at the same time, even if picked at the same time.

    Finally, the Santa Monica Co-Op and downtown farmer’s market (by the beach) sell dried persimmons. I think you’ve got to slice them or use inexpensive slicers/mandolins while they are hard. Drying the larger ones should bring out the sugar and eliminate the astringent quality. That way you can have persimmons much longer than just in season. And yes, dried persimmons are VERY expensive. And very yummy!

    As I’m sure you know, one tree will produce far more produce than you can eat or freeze. OMG they make fine gifts to those who love them.

    I am again pea green with envy. Oh to have a house and grow what you grow!

    (Re the health warning posted: you should never eat under-ripe fruit. The best way to eat ripe fruit is to grow your own and/or the farmer’s market. The best way to eat under-ripe fruit is from grocery stores — the larger they are, the worse. In most cases. And don’t trust people who work in the produce department at ANY store. Even the health food stores. Talk to people who actually eat what you want to eat!).

  15. PS WHY are you peeling persimmons?? Most of the nutrients found in most fruit reside thisclose under the skin. ONLY peel if sprayed (after washing).

    That goes for apples and most everything else. You have to cut away melon and citrus peels, but cut really close to the peelings/skin. Otherwise, you are discarding the healthiest part of the fruit!

  16. Last year I found myself living next to a gigantic Asian fruit market with incredibly cheap persimmons. My roommate and I started buying them in huge quantities, having no idea how or when to eat them. The freezing solution advocated in some of the comments works wonderfully – stick them in the freezer for a couple hours, pull them out and thaw them, and it’s just like letting them get all custardy-mushy on the tree.
    Mmmm… Asian supermarket persimmon season is just starting again here in Vancouver, and I’m gonna try my damndest to get me a bezoar.

  17. Two words: persimmon salsa. I also cook them with my yams at Thanksgiving, no sugar needed when cooked with persimmon and apple. They make a decent pie but definitely use them at the mushy almost brown stage for best cooking.

  18. I’ve tried this one: Add a few drops of rum to the dimple at the top of the the persimmon, and seal it in a tupperware box. For me it ripened in a matter of days.

  19. Hi, main thing to know is that there are basically two types of persimmon … sweet ones and not-sweet ones!

  20. kaki kueba kane ga naru nari Horyuji

    Masaoka Shiki 25-26/10/1895

    as I eat a persimmon
    the bell starts ringing
    at Hôryûji Temple

    (version by Sususmu Takiguchi)

    I bite into a persimmon
    and a bell resounds –

    (translation by Janine Beichman)

  21. Just as #13 said, I’ve always been told persimmons were best eaten after the first frost. They grow wild in abundance here in the south and I’ve been eating them all my life. Recently one of my sons has been bringing them in from the woods out back and placing them by a window to ripen. After they turn a dark orange they are very sweet and delicious.

    A side note, I’ve heard that the wood from a large persimmon tree is worth a few thousand dollars if you ever decide to get rid of yours.

  22. This fruit is quite popular here in Brazil because of the japanese immigrants.

    You have to pick them when trey’re orange, wrap’em in a paper bag and keep them indoors for a few days.

    I never cared for persimmons though.

  23. A nice poem about persimmons:

    Li-Young Lee

    In sixth grade Mrs. Walker
    slapped the back of my head
    and made me stand in the corner
    for not knowing the difference
    between persimmons and precision.
    How to choose
    persimmons. This is a precision.
    Ripe ones are soft and brown-spotted.
    Sniff the bottoms. The sweet one
    will be fragrant. How to eat:
    put the knife away, lay down newspaper.
    Peel the skin tenderly, not to tear the meat.
    Chew the skin, suck it,
    and swallow. Now, eat
    the meat of the fruit,
    so sweet,
    all of it, to the heart.

    and the rest of the poem:

  24. Maybe if you tied plastic bags around the fruit the squirrels wouldn’t eat them all when they get ripe.

  25. It must be true, people who like persimmons must be sweet.

    There are two episode’s of Huell Howser’s California Gold where he visits:

    California’s Gold #10011 – PERSIMMONS 2008
    Huell spends the day in Granite Bay California at Otow Orchard to learn the ancient art of Hoshigaki, which is the drying of persimmons.The persimmons are dried each fall in a slow, patient, hands-on process that usually takes three to six weeks…per persimmon. Each persimmon is hand-peeled, strung onto a rack, and massaged every 3 to 5 days for several weeks. Weather conditions are watched carefully. The result is a transformation into a sugary delicacy that is tender and moist. 916-791-1656

    Visiting…With Huell Howser #503 – PERSIMMON LADY 1997
    Meet Esther DeBar, who is 88 years old and the proud owner of a 90 year old persimmon tree which grows in the back yard of her L.A. home.

  26. My mom used to have a persimmon tree in her backyard and we used to make some delicious pudding. It involved baking in the oven in a “bath.” The recipe we used was from a cookbook called San Francisco ala Carte and it made a wonderful Christmas dessert with lemon curd sauce. YUMMY!

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