In season: perfect Aussie persimmons
Persimmon season is now underway. Growers are urging Aussies to make the most of their quality fruit in what has been an abundant year. Persimmons, which have a sweet honey-like taste, are only in season for a short time, from mid-March to late June.
Only nine percent of Australian households currently buy persimmons. Many still consider the fruit to be “exotic”, even though they’ve proven to be highly adaptable to a range of climates around Australia. The majority of persimmons are grown in Queensland, NSW and Victoria. However, you’ll also find them growing in South and Western Australia.
According to Persimmons Australia, some consumers have been known to confuse a persimmon with an unripe tomato. Others can be unsure of whether it’s a fruit or a vegetable. This means that if you’re feeling a bit puzzled about persimmons, you’re far from alone. But if you’ve never tasted one before, now is an excellent time to do so. NSW persimmon grower and President of Persimmons Australia Chris Stillard says consumers can expect to see an abundance of excellent quality fruit in store this season.
“Last year, growers were in the grips of a global pandemic and many farms were in drought,” he says. “But thanks to favourable conditions in the lead-up to the 2021 season, we’re looking at a great yield. We’ve got big volumes of fruit coming through, and the quality is excellent. It’s been a really productive Australian persimmon season this year. So we’re encouraging Aussies to get stuck into them while you can.”
Bitter and sweet
There are two types of persimmons available in Australia, There’s the crisp, crunchy sweet persimmon (Fuyu and Jiro). Then there’s the soft, juicy original persimmon (Hachiya). This is also known as astringent persimmon; they tend to have a rather mouth-puckering, bitter taste unless they’re ripe. Sweet persimmons account for 90 percent of production in Australia. However, there are plans afoot to introduce more persimmon varieties, such as the Spanish variety Rojo Brillante, into the Australian market in the next four to five years.
Persimmons are delicious eaten fresh, but also work brilliantly as a flavoursome addition to winter salads, cheese platters, desserts or even as a marinade for meats.
“Making the most of persimmons is easy,” Stillard says. “They can be enjoyed fresh, added to sweet or savoury dishes or – my personal favourite – sliced with blue cheese on top.”
Persimmons are also a good source of fibre, which helps maintain gut health. Plus, they’re rich in vitamins A, C and K as well as containing huge amounts of antioxidants.
How to pick, store and prep persimmons
Stillard says the key to picking the perfect persimmon in-store is to check the colour.
“When picking a sweet persimmon, you want to look for fruit that has a consistent orange-reddish colour all over,” he advises. “For the best sweet persimmon, choose ones that are reasonably firm, but you can eat them when they’re soft, too.”
Despite being quite firm to the touch, persimmon skin is thin, so can bruise easily. Store them out of the fridge for up to five days before eating them fresh, although you can use them in cooking when they’ve gone soft – just watch that delicate skin.
There are two common ways of cutting persimmons: the apple method and the star method. The apple method involves using a sharp knife to cut around the stem at a 45-degree angle and discarding it, then slicing the fruit in halves and quarters, just like an apple. For the star method, hold the fruit on its side and cut slices of desired thickness.