I discovered persimmons when I lived in Europe, where they are commonly known as Sharon fruit. They were a mystery to me at first, these orange, tomato-shaped creatures — how to eat them? Skin or no skin? I quickly learned to enjoy persimmons in their entirety, with their taught, crisp skin giving way to dribbling soft, honey-sweet flesh.
Now I live in California, where persimmon trees grow in our garden. In the fall, when the leaves are still intact, the persimmon trees are at their prettiest. Their fruit continues to ripen, and their pumpkin-orange skin is striated with shades of gold and sage, while the robust leaves are streaked in crimson. Come winter, when the leaves have fallen, the fruit continues to cling to the barren branches, dangling like forgotten Christmas ornaments, ripe for plucking.
There are two types of persimmons: the round, squat fuyu and the more upright, heart-shaped hachiya. The hachiya must be eaten at its ripest, when it’s incredibly squishy, to avoid its astringent, unripened flesh. It’s best to enjoy a hachiya as a big juicy slurp with a napkin in hand, or blending its pulp into baked goods. Unlike the hachiya, the fuyu is not astringent, so it may be eaten firm or soft. I enjoy the firmness of fuyus when their consistency is similar to a crisp pear. At this stage, they hold their shape well and have a soft sweetness, which makes them a great addition to salads and salsas. The firm fuyu fruit can also be grated and mixed into baked goods — just as you would grate a carrot into cakes — such as in this teacake.