During those early days of my parents’ meeting—what some would call courtship—my dad delivered a persimmon to my mom each time they met. He, an immigrant from a small island in Italy, arrived in New York and, like so many before him, sought solace in the flavors of his hometown; finding familiar tastes to feel less far away. Pallets piled high with persimmons, that other orange October bounty, reminded him of market stalls and blooming trees of his home country, picking ripe persimmons in his backyard every fall. And so, confronted with the new, he offered a bit of something old, welcoming my mom into the tastes of his island with a daily persimmon.
Years later, persimmons still figure prominently in my family. Come October we line our kitchen counters with the fruit, awaiting their maturation. We play an anxious waiting game, squeezing their flesh, hoping for that characteristic give. An unripe persimmon has enough astringency to make even the toughest wince. But a ripe one—a ripe persimmon has a creamy sweetness, with notes of vanilla and a pleasant, underlying tartness.
Rarely do they last long enough in my house to be cooked into something; we cut them up for breakfast, slice them for a snack or indulge in them as a jammy dessert. Persimmons, while great on their own, lend depth to any dish. The reflex is to bake them into breads and cakes and though that is not at all a bad idea, persimmons also deserve to be incorporated into salads, tossed among grains, or even pickled. Play around with persimmons and try out some of the recipes below. Or just eat them whole because they’re worth it.