Santa Monica Farmers’ Market Report: Are Persimmons the New Apple?

From crunchy to buttery soft, persimmons offer an array of fall flavors

KCRW Good Food Producer Gillian Ferguson shares highlights from farmers’ markets around Los Angeles, along with tips from chefs and growers on how to best use what’s in your basket.

It is an unspoken rule in California that farm to table restaurants must have persimmons on the menu for the month of November. At yesterday’s Santa Monica market, the deep orange colored fruits were more readily available than apples. At least six farms exhibited teetering piles of the crunchy Fuyu variety. Some growers displayed a full on panoply including the syrupy sweet Hachiyas, brown-fleshed Hyakumes and the squat, acorn shaped Tamopan which is rumored to taste like mango.

The firm exterior and long shelf life of Fuyus make them the most accessible and popular variety; plus, their versatility can be seen in kitchens across Los Angeles. At Cooks County the fruit is grilled, paired with burrata and dressed with arugula, shaved fennel and walnuts, while at Café Gratitude, chef Dreux Ellis is tinkering with persimmon/raspberry shrubs and baking the fruit into a vegan persimmon pudding. Over in Westwood at Fundamental LA persimmons are cooked down and set with gelatin before they scooped, battered and yes, deep fried. Owner Woogene Lee calls it a persimmon beignet. “The feeling you get is sort of like a jelly doughnut,” he explains. “You cut into it and then it will goo out persimmon jam.”

The second most popular persimmon is the Hachiya, an astringent variety shaped like a roma tomato. Unlike the Fuyus, Hachiyas must be borderline jam-like and yielding to be palatable. Along with unusual varieties like Hyakume and Tamopan, Hachiyas are hard to find outside of farmers’ markets. Below is a quick guide so you know what to look for on your next market shopping trip:

Fuyu: Firm, crunchy flesh is versatile. Can be eaten out of hand, shaved into salads or sliced into wedges and topped with finger lime caviar an after dinner palate cleanser. Chefs recommend peeling the skin which can be tannic and tough.
Farmers: Penryn Orchard Specialties, JJ’s Lone Daughter, Peacock Family Farm, Mud Creek Ranch and Burkart Organics

Giant Fuyu: Exactly what it sounds like, this is a larger version of the Fuyu. Often times these are seeded and have a shorter shelf life which makes them less desirable for grocery store buyers. The fruit is also available sliced and dried at Burkart Organics.
Farmers: Burkart Organics

Maru: Also known as chocolate persimmons, these fruit are seeded and get their name from the cocoa tinged flesh and storied chocolate flavor. Beware of the large seeds which give the flesh it’s unique color and taste. Eat when the flesh is soft and yielding but not quite as custard and gelatinous as the Hachiya variety.
Farmers: Penryn Orchard Specialties and Mud Creek Ranch

Hyakume: Also called the “brown sugar” persimmon, this is a hard to find prized variety that grows well in Placer County near Sacramento. It can be eaten raw or grilled and is said to be the sweetest persimmon.
Farmers: Penryn Orchard Specialties

Hachiya: This variety should be very soft and yielding before eating. The skin is astringent and is typically discarded while the soft flesh is often used for persimmon pudding or sorbet. Farmer Laura Ramirez of JJ’s Lone Daughter suggests eating the custardy flesh with a spoon with a shot of rum poured on top.
Farmers: JJ’s Lone Daughter and Mud Creek Ranch

Tamopan: An odd looking variety reminiscent of a squashed acorn, this oversized fruit has a softer orange hue. Like the Hachiyas it is an astringent variety that should be eaten soft. Once ripe the flesh is said to have the flavor of mango.
Farmers: Penryn Orchard Specialties