The U.S. weather map for November is swathed in rainbow from sweltering red to cool blue. These undulating weather patterns are producing a wonderful armload of late fall fruits. Our country’s bounty spans from pears in the East—gathered before the Frost Pixie can kiss them—to Southern California citrus that have ripened in the warm updrafts of Santa Ana winds. A herald of winter in many regions is the persimmon. Where the rain and sleet have begun, the persimmon tree, with its orange ornaments, makes a striking silhouette against the gray horizon. These fruits can stand a chill; as the old farm saying goes, “Persimmons grows where mangos fear to tread.”
The persimmon is native to the United States. The genus name Diospyros means “fruit of the gods,” and species virginiana is named for the colony. It got its common name from the Algonquin tribe’s word pasiminan. When the pilgrims arrived ill equipped for their quest and the Native Americans saved their lives by showing them many of the New World’s foods, Vitamin C-rich persimmon was one of them. Over the centuries, waves of newcomers have brought other varieties of persimmon, including the Hachiya and Fuyu from Japan, which are now common nationwide.
How to tell the difference: The Hachiya is the evocative one, acorn-shaped and vermillion-colored. You must wait to eat it until it is “jelly-ripe,” swooning in its skin. At this point you may cut the persimmon open and eat it with a spoon. Be patient: if you eat it too soon your tongue and your belly will be very mad at you for the tannins will not have mellowed enough. The Zen Buddhists meditate on the Hachiya Persimmon, waiting for it to change from bitterness to sweet. It is a symbol of transformation from ignorance to wisdom.
If you lean more toward instant gratification then the non-astringent Fuyu Persimmon may be for you. The mnemonic “For You!” may help you remember the name. Fuyu are a light orange oblate version that look like a hard tomato and can be eaten peeled, or sliced like an apple and eaten with the skin. Fresh persimmon is a perky addition to any salad.
A bowl of beautiful persimmons waiting to ripen is more than a harvest centerpiece—it’s nutritious. One cup of Fuyus contain 100 calories, 1g protein, and 60% of RDA Vitamin A (the orange color is your hint).
What’s more persimmon seeds are used in folklore to forecast the weather. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, if you slice open one of the fruit’s seeds, the shape of the cross section foretells the winter ahead:
If a spoon is there, winter will be mild,
Not too cold, with mostly rain—nothing wild.
If a fork is seen, winter’ll be a bit worse.
With a couple of snowstorms, we’ll be cursed.
Should a knife be there, winter’ll be quite cold,
with much snow and even ice storms foretold.
If you don’t find any seeds in your persimmon, try another one! They are good for you no matter what the weather!