Persimmons are orange fruits with a glossy skin and green cap. They are found in produce markets in autumn. There are two distinct varieties of persimmons, one is native to America and the other to Asia. They differ in size and flavor. The American persimmon tree grows wild in southern states and in southern Indiana. The fruits are small, only slightly larger than a golf ball. Picked off the tree, they tend to be tart. But harvested from the ground, where they fall as soon as they ripen, their custardlike flesh is succulent and sweet, ideal for making puddings, cakes and candy. Native persimmons rarely are sold commercially and do not ship well so they are regional. Occasionally, canned or frozen persimmon pulp can be found.
Asian persimmons are larger than native persimmons. Two varieties are available in many supermarkets: the Hachiya and Fuyu. Their taste is less complex than the native persimmons, although they can be used in many of the same preparations. Select plump fruits with smooth, waxy skin and vibrant orange color. Rock-hard Asian persimmons will not fully ripen but firm ones can be ripened at room temperature in a paper bag for several days. The Hachiya is the more common variety. It is oval in shape and soft when ripe. The Fuyu is round in shape and is slightly firm when ripe. Once ripened, persimmons can be refrigerated for several days.
To eat a persimmon, rinse it under cold water and eat as you would an apple or pear. The skin is edible. A soft, ripe persimmon may be wrapped in plastic wrap and partially frozen for a special treat.