How to eat persimmons

It’s the end of autumn and thus persimmon season in New Zealand, as the fruit – which has been grown in Asia for centuries – is ready for picking. The most widely grown genus in New Zealand is the Diospyros kaki, or Japanese persimmon, which is native to Japan, China, Korea, Burma and Nepal and has been cultivated for centuries.

Down under, the prime season is April and May for this deep orange fruit that somewhat resembles a tomato, with a high glucose content making it equally sweet in taste. In fact, while not typically considered a berry, in strict botanical morphology they are. They need a warmer climate to thrive and are therefore best grown in northern New Zealand, including Auckland.

Freshly picked in Helensville, Auckland | Photo: Linh Le 

Forty-five minutes from central Auckland is Helensville, and there you’ll find the Shiziyuan Persimmon Garden. It’s a very popular pick-your-own garden for Auckland’s Asian community. After two weeks of closure to let the fruit replenish after its last picking, it opens again this Saturday, 22 May. Owned by Ross and Cherry Hunt, a trip to the gardens is a whole day out for a family, where you can also bring a picnic, feed the cows, see the doves, and finish it all off with a persimmon ice cream.

Asia New Zealand Foundation's Linh Le enjoys the fruits of her labour | Photo: Linh Le

But once you get home, what can you do with all those bags of persimmons?

Poh Ling Yeow, MasterChef all-star and ambassador for Australian Persimmons,  shows you how to cut and store persimmons in this YouTube video.

The variety of persimmons widely available in New Zealand is non-astringent and easily bitten into with the skin on, and eaten raw.

Persimmon recipe roundup

For day-to-day additions to your meals, they are best utilised to add a pop of colour to a salad where your standard red tomato might not suffice. Just use sliced persimmons in place of them – perhaps in an autumnal persimmon and apple salad.

Persimmons are an unrated fruit, says cook Nadia Lim. “A lot of people don’t know what to do with them,” she says. Lim’s advice? Try something different like honey-baking them with vanilla and cinnamon. Other dessert options for this fruit include persimmon crumble or cake (made moist with brandy), cookies, galette, or even persimmon sorbet, made with black tea.

For morning tea recipes, you could bake a persimmon bread with walnuts (again, very autumnal), or easy spiced persimmon muffins.

For a slightly sweeter-than-usual risotto, persimmon risotto is balanced with tart pancetta and goat’s cheese. A twist on typical roast chicken, make harissa and persimmon chicken with a Greek yoghurt marinade. 

And finally, don’t forget about using persimmons during aperitif hour. They go great with a cocktail, whether wrapped in prosciutto (like you’d wrap melon slices) or made into a persimmon paste for cheese and crackers, for use in the same way as quince jelly.

 - Asia Media Centre