At this time of year, when the stone fruit have come to an end and the citrus haven’t quite started, persimmons come to the rescue in the fruit bowl.
Here in New Zealand, most commercially grown persimmons are the sweet, crunchy Fuyu variety, which you can eat whole, skin and all, just like apples.
They’re nothing like the traditional varieties of persimmon that many of us remember from our youth, which needed to be eaten when they were so ripe they were soft like jelly, or else they were mouth-puckeringly astringent. Today’s persimmons can be eaten straight from the tree, without any hint of astringency.
Available from April to July, persimmons provide a vitamin boost just as you need it going into winter. They are a good source of fibre, containing more than twice the fibre of apples, as well as more vitamin A than any other fruit, more vitamin C than pears and nearly as much potassium as bananas. They also contain high levels of phenolic compounds, which are thought to help reduce hardening of the arteries.
Versatile persimmons can be eaten raw or cooked. I like to slice them raw into salads with rocket or slightly bitter endive, avocado, nuts and a mustard vinaigrette. They can be used to add a sweet-and-sour note to meat and poultry dishes, and are good in muffins, cakes and puddings.
They also make a great dessert sauce – just chop the flesh and purée with a little ginger, fresh orange juice, a squeeze of lime or lemon and a little honey to taste. Or try them in a fresh fruit salad, combined with kiwifruit, a can of lychees, some chopped crystallised ginger and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Here’s one of my favourite persimmon salads for you to try.
Persimmon, Mozzarella and Prosciutto Salad
This salad is delicious as a side salad with roast chicken or steak. For a vegetarian version replace the prosciutto with ½ cup roasted tamari almonds.
Ready in 10 mins
120g bag baby spinach leaves
120-150g bocconcini or mozzarella
1 large persimmon, halved, cored and cut into thin wedges
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
finely grated zest of ½ a lemon
flaky salt and ground black pepper, to taste
4 thin slices prosciutto, halved lengthwise
Arrange spinach on a serving platter or divide between 4 plates. Tear bocconcini or mozzarella into bite-sized pieces and arrange on spinach with persimmon. Drizzle with oil, sprinkle with lemon zest and season with salt and pepper. Lightly toss to combine and garnish with loosely folded slices of prosciutto.
Thanks to First Fresh, who grow about half of New Zealand's persimmon supply on their Gisborne farms, for the persimmons used in this recipe.