Taste Test: Persimmon

By Lisa Katayama

3613231732_640c9eddc9_b.jpg Image via Sandy Austin's Flickr People always ask me what I like to do in Tokyo. What's fun? What's cool. Well here's my dirty secret. Most nights, I sit in my parents' living room and watch silly game shows while drinking green tea and eating persimmon.

Sujeonggwa Peel and thinly slice 2 inches of fresh ginger root. Bring the ginger, 6 cups of water, and 2 cinnamon sticks to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Add 1/2c sugar and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat and strain. Add 4 dried seedless persimmons to the cinnamon-ginger water and allow to stand for 3 hours to soften. Ladle liquid into individual serving bowls, placing one persimmon in each bowl. Sprinkle pine nuts on top before serving. Source: Korean Cooking Made Easy by Soon Young Chung

Persimmon is called kaki in Japanese, and it has been constantly battling against mangoes for first place on my list of favorite fruits. Kaki is a prominent part of everyday life in Japan — there's even an adjective almost exclusively used to describe the taste of a bitter persimmon, shibui. (The only other time it's used is to describe older men with graying hair who are nonetheless hot, like George Clooney.) China, Japan, and Korea are the top three producers of persimmon in the world. The Chinese believe that the fruit helps to regulate energy flow. It's also known to cure digestive problems, and it's a great source of B and C vitamins. In Korea, some people use dried persimmons to make a traditional fruit punch-like drink called Sujeonggwa. It's supposedly great with soju, too! In the US, I see a lot of restaurants use cooked fuyu persimmon around this time of the year to supplement salads and meats, but I prefer to eat it raw once its blood orange skin has turned ever slightly soft. Every installment of Taste Test will explore recipes, the science, and some history behind a specific food item.

Published 5:00 am Fri, Nov 6, 2009


About the Author

I'm a contributing editor here at Boing Boing. I also have a blog (TokyoMango), a book (Urawaza), and I freelance for Wired, Make, the NY Times Magazine, PRI's Studio360, etc. I'm @tokyomango on Twitter.

51 Responses to “Taste Test: Persimmon”

  1. jjasper says:

    It’s supposedly great with soju, too!

    You’d need something to cut the flavor of soju, that’s for sure.

  2. Anonymous says:

    For people close to Mexico , Hermosillo, Sonora in particular, persimmons are very common and much less expensive than in Japan. Try them and enjoy

    • Anonymous says:

      What is called in Spanish? I am looking for it because I was diagnosed with Crohn. I read in a book that is the best fruit for the Crohn disease. So I live by the border and I’m trying to find this fruit. Thank you

  3. Anonymous says:


    There is nothing sweeter on earth than one of these ripened & picked right off the tree.

    We have one in our house in Mexico – right next to an avacado tree.

  4. Francesco Fondi says:

    Persimmon means kaki? In Italy we call Kaki as in Japan. We use to eat when the fruits got really soft and sometimes we eat kaki with Williams liqueur (I love it)!!!

  5. maralenenok says:

    Eating frozen and thawed persimmons was always one of my favorite parts of Moscow winters. I hardly ever eat them in the US, but just yesterday I tossed a couple in the freezer, with plans to eat them in a few weeks. They’re a lot less astringent after a stint in the freezer.

  6. russella says:

    In fact, English does have an precise translation of shibui, at least the literal meaning: Astringent. That said, it carries none of the cool connotations of shibui (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shibui ) .

  7. tiemposbuenos says:

    In Brazil persimmons are called “caqui” (which I’m sure comes from the Japanese word). My favorites are the soft and super-sweet ones, their bright orange color is so beautiful! I’m obsessed with them.

  8. Thac0 says:

    I’ve always disliked them, they are overly sweet yet astringent, yes. Perhaps i need to try freezing them.

  9. Anonymous says:

    the real place to eat persimmons, or kakis is brazil.
    due to the japanese migration to the fields of southwest of brazil, 100 yrs ago, those sanseis and nisseis brought top notch cultivation knowledge, and applied it on one o the most fertile grounds in the world. so when japanese come to visit us, they gasp at the flavour, juices, size and varieties of fruits over there, including that of caquis. if uve been there, if uve talked to someone that visited the area and compared, ull see,
    rama forte, giombo and fuyu r 3 very different kinds that will blow ur mind.

  10. usegobos says:

    Someone left fresh persimmons in the copy room and sent out an email this morning. I just tasted my first one and wow, neat flavor, and yes, very astringent. Now I know what what a freshly downed alum (a la cartoons) feels like.

  11. paulatz says:

    In my region they are called caco (plur. cachi )(pronounced kakow/kaki) which is always the subject of gross joke (caco/cachi means “I/you shit”, in Italian). They are good, but IMHO, only as a winter fruit. I suspect they low resistance to transport and stocking makes them difficult and expensive to find far away from the production places.

    They are not astringent at all, when they are fully mature, but it is difficult to know which are without tasting. Two kind, which may just be two different way of harvesting them, are normally available: the hard ones (good, less sweet with a subtle vanilla flavour) and the soft ones (very soft and juicy and sweet).

    I love the fact that they are mature before oranges and other citruses, providing an alternative to the crappy winter apples. I wouldn’t consider them one of my favourite fruits, though.

  12. Anonymous says:

    if a persimmon tastes astringent it probably isn’t ready to be eaten. and some varieties are worse than others. if it’s acorn-shaped it has to be REALLY soft. i prefer fuyu because they are tasty while still firm/crispy.

  13. dimka says:

    I remember from the childhood that the best test come when the fruit is really dark and even overripe

  14. MrsBug says:

    Ah memories! I tasted my first persimmons in Okinawa when I was stationed there, and loved them.

  15. Anonymous says:

    In Germany, they are known as ‘Sharon Fruit’ or ‘Kaki’, and you get two different types, one being kind of flat like a pumpkin, the other one with a blunt pointy end.

    As to most favorite fruit: Custard apple aka Cherimoya http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annona_cherimola wins hands down.

  16. kimnbri says:

    My kids and I just had one today for breakfast! First one ever. They loved it and I did too. It has a taste all its own. Like an apple with no core but the texture of a soft ripe pear. Very nice indeed!

  17. mortis says:

    mmm soju…too bad it’s near impossible to find in the states, outside of a restaurant. :(


  18. chgoliz says:

    I’ve got one ripening right now, for a miracle berry tasting. Sure, we’ll be doing all the usual stuff, like lemons and Tabasco sauce, but I really want to try a persimmon under that influence.

  19. Boba Fett Diop says:

    I love Kaki, but during the season in Japan, they are sort of like zucchini. You can’t go anywhere in the countryside without someone giving you some from the local orchard. One time some friends and I were driving down to Totsukawa (in southern Nara-ken) and stopped at a rural post office to use the washroom. The two women in our group went in to find the ladies’ and came out with two large bags of persimmon.

  20. Anonymous says:

    What does the American persimmon taste like?


  21. Anonymous says:

    These things will give you diarrhea if you eat them raw. Never eat more than one if it’s raw. The traditional dried persimmons on the other hand, doesn’t give diarrhea. But those things look gross.

  22. Snig says:

    I’ve come across them growing wild in the DC area.

  23. jjasper says:

    Mortis @ # 13 – Dude, you can buy soju online.

    You can have all of my share. Ever. Blech.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy notes that persimmons have been identified as causing epidemics of intestinal bezoars, and that up to ninety percent of food boluses that occur from eating too much of the fruit require surgery for removal.

  24. Anonymous says:

    These are great but persimmon season in China coincides with hairy crab season. Hairy crabs and persimmons should not be eaten together or they cause illness, or so I’m told by the Shanghainese.

  25. Anonymous says:

    The persimmons in the photo are fuyu persimmons — flat on the bottom and hard when ripe. There are also hachiya persimmons, acorn-shaped and nearly inedible unless squishy-ripe. I like both. Hachiyas make better dried persimmon imho.

  26. regeya says:

    My grandma and my mom used to make persimmon pudding. It was a bread-type pudding. We used to pour either cream or milk in with it.

    Great, now I want some. Good luck finding persimmons :-P

  27. bklynchris says:

    I saw a persimmon tree whose limbs were practically groaning with ripening fruit in Queens two weeks ago.. Man, I wanted to pick a couple, I thought, if the owners are caucsioan they probably think them “poison berries” as coined by my sister in law whose property in LA was lousy with them. But if they were Asian (like myself), I might get shot (or at least beaten about the head and shoulders with a broom by someone who looks too much like my grandmother) for trying to bag a few.

    And, Mortis, you can get Soju all over the anywhere!? Unless, you live someplace like Nebraska.

    They are a great fruit! Just like the new kiwi berry phenom, they are packed with all kinds of good stuff.

  28. Aloisius says:

    As I understand it, only Japanese persimmons (the most common variety) are called kaki. There are two other species including the American persimmon which is native to the eastern US and the date-plum which is native to southeast Europe/southwest Asia and was called the fruit of the Gods by the Greeks.

    There are both astringent and non-astringent persimmons. I had a couple trees when I was a kid and frankly, hated them all, but one was far less astringent than the other.

  29. dexcox says:

    I know this as a japanese apple

  30. Caitieboo says:

    One of the few things I enjoy about living in Virginia is the winter persimmons… so tasty, but if not yet ripe, will make your mouth feel like it has turned inside out and covered in cotton. Always fun that the most face puckering fruit can also be one of the sweetest once ready for indulgence. :)

  31. Anonymous says:

    Interesting. I don’t think I’ve ever had a persimmon, but it sounds like they might make a good wine. In fact, here’s a recipe I found:

    This also reminds me of the Persimmon Song by Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band:

  32. Rukasu says:

    I used to eat them regularly when living in China. Didn’t much enjoy them, but the CCP provided them to us foreign teachers. Very sweet, but no real original, unique taste…just sweetness. Often left a chalky feeling in my mouth and teeth as well…much like what raw baby spinach does, but worse.

  33. Anonymous says:

    For us Midwesterners there is always our smaller Possumwood:

    and the unique Persimmon Pudding:

  34. Anonymous says:

    Persimmons are great, especially the new variety that you can eat when they are note quite ripe, and they leave NO chalk taste in your mouth. I have them every couple of months due to the cost in Canada.

  35. Anonymous says:

    They sell them here in London on Portobello Market, near me and I seem to remember seeing them lots of other places (Sainsburys, Tescos), never as persimmon, they’re called sharon fruit or kaki fruit.

    I’ve always found them rather sweet and tasteless, I must have missed something. Must try them again

  36. ameca says:

    Was eating persimmon cut up and covered in yogurt for breakfast as I read this!! I like ’em not quite fully ripe – crisp like an apple. Honey and yogurt balance out the “shibui”-ness.
    My friend makes a persimmon chutney that goes so well with dahl curry… mmm mmm.

  37. Anonymous says:

    Until several months ago I didn’t know anybody cultivated persimmons. I’ve only had the ones that grew wild in S.C. and I always noticed the trees grew with some distances between them (I mean thousands of feet to miles). My best friends mother use to make a chutney from those persimmons. And those cultivated persimmons? I bought them at a farmers market and they were from Israel and called Sharon Fruit.

  38. Anonymous says:

    I’ve not had much experience with these varieties of persimmon – usually they’re too expensive for me to experiment – but I know many folks who go gaga over them.

    On the other hand, my son and I have been playing with Texas Black Persimmon (http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=dite3)- they’re much smaller (an inch to inch and a half diameter usually) mostly seeds, extremely astringent when not fully ripe but very sweet when ripe.

    Though cattle ranchers sometimes consider them toxic (they give the cattle – and people – a bad case of the trots if they eat too many) we have been eating them for years straight from the bush. They’re a lot of work to eat though, as there’s usually as much thick skin and big seeds as there is pulp inside.

    Last year I got the idea to collect a bunch of them, squeeze the pulp out, and make fruit leather. It worked great. This year after we made several batches at home my son asked me to share the process with his class at school, and here’s the gooey result: http://circletime.shutterfly.com/27 Probably not likely to become a commercial product any time soon but easy enough to make if they’re available locally.

    The natural health folks always say that the darker fruits and veggies are better for you, having more vitamins, anti-oxidants, and the like. If that’s true, these are pretty darn good for you – and they’re tasty too.

  39. Doug Watt says:

    I have two persimmon trees in my yard, male and female. The fruit from the female tree is what most people seem to like, the male version is larger and tastes a bit like biting into alum. They are ripening now. We make persimmon cake and cookies from the fruit.

  40. Anonymous says:

    In Albania, they are called hurma, and they have plenty of trees. It is a winter fruit, and they eat them raw, but for the two winters, I learned quickly that I wasn’t a big fan. However, ever since, I’ve wanted to try them prepared. I have heard of the freezer trick, and I’ve also heard they make great pies. Anyone tried that?

  41. kmpmilano says:

    I’ve lived in Italy for the past nine years and have always wondered what cachi were and now I know. Persimmons! Thanks, Boingboing.

    I have some in the fridge right now but am unsure how to eat them. I wonder how they’d be in my morning smoothie….

  42. amoration says:

    For pies, mix with sweet potato or apple for best flavor. Also good to mix with your holiday yams and then cut the sugar for diabetics.

    I love to make persimmon salsa, easy to do this time of year. I roast the persimmons with cerrano peppers from our garden and add to the other salsa ingredients (tomato, cilantro, etc). Yummmmmmmy good fruit!

  43. Anonymous says:

    Mmmmm, sujeonggwa. I really want some now, thanks. :(

  44. Anonymous says:

    it’s pretty much the same word in all the romantic languages + Japan: caqui (Spanish & Portuguese), cachi (Italian), kaki (Japanese & French)

  45. NickP says:

    Anon @21:

    In my opinion, the taste of wild American persimmons (Diospyros virginiana) is significantly better than that of Fuyu persimmons. I haven’t tried the other varieties of the Asian persimmon

  46. Anonymous says:

    In the southern part of Louisiana they are everywhere. We can’t believe that some people have never eaten a persimmon.

  47. Anonymous says:

    In the philipines if friends meet up they give a bag full of persimmons.(Well Filipinos are always like that!) I myself is the same mangos and persimmons are both my number #1 When I was little I ate them (SF) but then i moved 2 LA and all I got were mangos once in a while we would get persimmons but they are gone fast!

  48. Anonymous says:

    They are available in the UK, any big supermarket has them