One of the autumnal foods that I’ve been enjoying the last few weeks in Japan is persimmon. Although they grow in the United States, persimmons are not what I would call a widely popular fruit with American consumers. I’ve only had them a couple times back in America, and in both instances they were mushy and overripe. Needless to say, I didn’t like them.
My experience with persimmons in Japan, specifically with the tomato-shaped Fuyu variety, are another story. They are simply wonderful, assuming you eat them when they are ripe (otherwise, they are bitter and rock hard). The flesh is firm and crisp, with a great honey-like taste. No wonder the scientific name for persimmons, Diospyros, is ancient Greek for “fruit of the Gods.” And I’ve seen them grow in many backyards in suburban and rural Japan.
When looking for a ripe persimmon, choose one with smooth and transparent skin, and a good overall orange color. You can also let it ripen on a counter or in a paper bag until it reaches a bright coloring. When it ready, cut the persimmon like you would a tomato, slicing off the top where the leaves are. I prefer to eat persimmons with the skin on, but you can peel them as well.
It’s a reminder that great, seasonal food in Japan doesn’t always require going to an eatery or a lot of time spent in the kitchen. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of going down to the local grocery store and picking up a simple persimmon.