Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Bates County, University of Missouri Extension
If you’ve never had a persimmon, now is the time to try! Ripe persimmons are a small, orange-red, smooth-skinned fruit measuring from 1 to 3 inches. They are in season October through February, but when grown in Missouri, mid-October is the time of year they ripen and taste the best.
American persimmon trees are native to Missouri and produce a more astringent fruit with a bitter taste. As the fruit gets ripe, the tannins that cause the astringency coagulate, the flesh becomes soft, and the fruit becomes sweet and juicy.
Missouri persimmons should be picked and eaten when they are very soft, but will ripen off the tree if picked before they are fully ripe. If you pick them before they are ready to eat, leave them at room temperature for a few days to allow them to ripen. To speed up the process, you can put them in a paper bag with a banana or apple. Ripe fruit can be stored in the refrigerator for two to three days.
Many people like them best when picked and eaten right off the tree. Persimmons can also be pureed and used as a topping for ice cream or cake, or as an addition to rice dishes and fruit salads. Persimmon pudding and persimmon cookies are tasty treats as well.
Persimmons can be frozen for year-round use. Wash, peel and cut persimmon into sections, then press through a sieve to make a puree. For better quality, add 1/8 teaspoon crystalline ascorbic acid or 1½ teaspoons crystalline citric acid to each quart of puree. (Look for crystalline ascorbic acid and crystalline citric acid at the drugstore or where home food preservation supplies are sold.) Missouri persimmons are so sweet when they are ripe that they don’t need added sugar. Pack the puree into freezer containers leaving headspace, seal and freeze.
In addition to being versatile and tasty, persimmons are high in vitamin A and are a good source of vitamin C and fiber.