Persimmons in a basket and sliced persimmons on a cutting board
(Image credit: homydesign)

Persimmon has a bad rap in areas where the only available fruit is from the supermarket. Here, the persimmon you will find is Diospyros kaki, an Asian native, lacking in the extreme sweetness found in fruit native to North America and used in persimmon dessert recipes. For fruit at its peak to be used in a multitude of persimmon recipe ideas, it is important to know a bit about persimmon harvest time and how to prepare persimmon.

About Persimmon Fruit

American persimmons (Diospyros virginiana) can be found from New York to Florida on into west Texas, east of the Mississippi river in rocky or dry, open woods and glades, prairies, thickets, abandoned fields, and roadsides.

In the winter the tree is easy to identify due to its thick, dark, checker patterned bark. A member of the ebony family, the wood is extremely hard and used for golf clubs, pool cues, and shoe lasts.

Generally, plants are dioecious, having separate male and female blooms. Clusters of male aromatic, white to greenish flowers appear in the late spring along with single female blooms.

The blossoms give way to persimmon fruit in the fall, often into winter. Ripe persimmon fruit is orange to reddish purple set off by the glossy dark green foliage. Green persimmons are firm and extremely astringent while ripe fruit is soft and so delicate it isn’t suitable for commerce.

Persimmon Harvest Time

Persimmon fruit does not ripen on any one tree at the same time. Fruit may ripen from September through Christmas and often into the New Year. Folklore often insists that persimmon fruit will not ripen until the first heavy frost, but this is a fallacy. Fruit may ripen in September when temperatures are still in the 80s or in late February when temps have dipped below freezing.

A sure sign the fruit is ripe is when it begins to drop from the tree. Haste must be made to harvest dropped fruit as all manner of creatures revel in sweet persimmons. Continue to harvest fruit every other day or so.

When ripe, persimmon fruit is fragrant and almost cloyingly sweet, making it perfect for use in persimmon dessert recipes such as ice creams and pies as well as syrups and jelly.

How to Prepare Persimmon

The easiest way to prepare the fruit for persimmon recipes is to push it through a potato ricer and then scrape the pulp from the ricer and transfer to a container. This method removes the seeds and skin easily. The pulp can then be frozen, dried into fruit leather, or used immediately in a number of persimmon fruit recipes. The fruit leather can be eaten as is or used mixed with cornmeal or other cereal grains to make Native American cakes, biscuits, and pudding.

Persimmon Fruit Recipe Ideas

Of course, persimmon fruit can be peeled and seeded and then either eaten out of hand or used in recipes such as persimmon and fontina grilled sandwiches, persimmon muffins, quick breads, cookies, or a kale and persimmon salad with pecan vinaigrette.

Purees of persimmon can be used in puddings, made into ice cream syrup, or even added to cocktails.

Fresh persimmon can be sauteed and used over pork, made into a persimmon apricot marmalade for use on toast or over crepes, or to infuse rice with its aromatic flavor and sweetness. Try persimmons on pizza with a béchamel sauce combined with the bite of arugula or as a starter of persimmon and brie on crostini.

Really, persimmon recipe ideas are only limited by your imagination. When all else fails, make a batch of persimmon jam adorned with cute labels as holiday gifts for family and friends.

Amy Grant

Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.