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In Season: Persimmons

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[Flickr: travellnfool55]

In season October through February, persimmons are the golden delicious fruits that hang off the trees after the leaves drop in autumn. Often referred to as "the fruit of the Gods," persimmon trees can reach up to 70 feet in height. Persimmons, native to Japan and China, were first harvested in the United States in the 1850's and are now grown all over the world where the weather is warm enough.

Although there are many different persimmon varieties, the fuyu and hachiya persimmons are the two varieties most commonly sold in the United States. Fuyus represent almost 80 percent of the persimmon market in the United States and are most commonly eaten raw. They are characterized by flat bottoms and a squat shape and a slightly crisp texture. Fuyus should be yellow-orange in color and are at their best when they are slightly soft. To prepare fuyus for eating, hull or cut out their top and its attached flesh, then slice, peel and remove any straggling large black seeds

Hachiya persimmons are very astringent unless they are perfectly ripe, in which case, they possess a unique velvety flesh. Differing from the fuyu variety, they have an elongated, acorn shape and are slightly larger than the fuyu. Rather than eaten raw, hachiyas are better as baking persimmons and are usually peeled and pureed into a pulp which can be used in many different recipes.

Both fuyu and hachiyas persimmons will ripen after they are picked, so buying firmer fuyus and allowing them to ripen in a paper bag is a good idea. When choosing persimmons, look for characteristics similar to those of a ripe tomato—smooth and blemish free skin with a bit of a give. The green cap should still be attached and fresh in appearance.

Here is a list of persimmon recipes to get your started.

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