Move over pumpkin! Persimmon is the new pumpkin! The pulp from a ripe persimmon can be used in breads, pies, and cakes interchangeably with pumpkin puree. Fuyu persimmons can actually be eaten like an apple when they are firm. Wild persimmons like the ones I grew up picking and the Hachiya variety can only be eaten when very ripe and soft. Otherwise, you will pucker up more than you ever have with any lemon-bitter more than sour.
I want to thank Rebecca Shew for sharing persimmons she picked from her tree in her yard. They were huge! These persimmons were so ripe and yummy, it was hard to separate the pulp from the peel so I just threw that in, too, and blended it in. You can see little bits of the peel in the cake and I loved it! The texture reminded me of apricots. If you know me, you know I like to barter so I traded a bag of chocolate chip shortbread bars for her bag of persimmons. She had her granddaughter with her the day we made the swap, so I think it was a win-win for both of us!
I have to tell a funny story about persimmons and my friends, years ago, in the Southern Progress/Oxmoor House test kitchens. None of my test kitchen friends had ever tasted or even seen a persimmon about 20+ years ago. This was before the global market exploded in Birmingham. I brought back a few of the smaller, wild ones I picked from a tree near my parents barn when I visited that weekend. They were beautiful, as orange as a pumpkin, only richer in color! Oh, and they were firm like an apple. (Insert wicked grin emoji here.) I introduced my friends to the gorgeous fruit and went on and on about how yummy they were. I passed them out one by one and asked that they wait until everyone had one before they bit into it………. If you’ve ever eaten an unripe persimmon, you know what happened next! Everyone spit and sputtered diving for the trash cans and I’m laughing so hard I was crying. They thought it was funny years later when someone brought up the practical joke but at that moment…..not so much. I know Jan Smith and Elizabeth Tyler Austin were among my victims. Maybe Vanessa Taylor Pruett?
This is the perfect time of year to try persimmons and remember, persimmons are the new pumpkin so feel free to try them in all your pumpkin recipes and let me know how you like them. And if you’re looking for a good Halloween party practical joke, try putting a few unripe persimmons in the fruit bowl!