There is something of an art to picking and eating persimmons. Though the number of varietals are small compared to other fruits in season this time of year (apples and pears come to mind), the few that are available have very different properties of color and ripeness.
Two types of persimmons are common in California. Fuyu persimmons are firm, light to dark orange and more flatly shaped, like a tomato. Fuyus are easier to pick than the other most popular persimmon, hachiya, because they are eaten when firm and are more forgiving if you cut them open a little early.
Hachiya persimmons are trickier to pick out. When ripe, hachiyas are soft and heavy. However, unlike fuyus, unripe hachiyas have very high tannin levels which make them sticky and dry on the tongue. Some people refer to this property as astringency. Others call it bitter.
As someone who generally prefers firm fruit, I learned this lesson the hard way. I strongly advise exercising patience when it comes to hachiyas. When ripe, these persimmons are a deep, red-orange in color and often have black streaks on the skin. Hachiyas also have a more tapered bottom than fuyu persimmons, making them heart-shaped.
Rarely are hachiyas ripe when they are for sale, so I usually leave the fruits on the counter for several days until they become soft. While they are ripening, set them top-down on the corolla so their tender flesh does not get damaged under their weight.
Occasionally I have found other persimmon varietals at my local markets. One of my favorites is the chocolate persimmon, which is similar to a fuyu except the flesh inside is brown. These persimmons have a rich and spicy flavor that is reminiscent of, well, chocolate. Definitely try one if you can find them.
Good, ripe persimmons are sweet and have an almost warm flavor. They taste amazingly like autumn, with notes of cinnamon and brown sugar. Persimmons can be eaten raw or cooked into a dessert, but you should not eat them before they are ripe.
Most people do not consume the skins of persimmons, but I usually do. If the skins are tough, however, I will cut them off. The center usually contains a few dark, hard seeds that should not be eaten.
What are your favorite tips for picking and eating persimmons?