What to do with all the persimmons

November 25, 2009

Last year about this time, I was desperately trying to pawn off persimmons on anyone who looked like they might have the slightest interest in them. You see, we have two persimmon trees, and every fall they have bumper crops of Hachiya and Fuyu persimmons that ripen and (if we don’t pick them first) fall to the ground with the leaves in the space of about two weeks. It’s a race to try to get enough of the off the trees that the raccoons don’t go to town—last year they got three big branches off the Hachiya tree, leaving it pretty raggedy looking. (This year after the last leaves fall, it’s getting hacked way, way back by a professional so that it’s a little more under control next year.)

This year, though, when the trees started getting the telltale orange tinge, I was prepared. The first bags went to the neighbors. We piled them into the kitchen to get ready for cooking and canning. I dumped a bunch of Fuyus into the California cooler, where they should hopefully last for a month or two. Forage Oakland came out and took a bunch off of our hands. We took some to a birthday party and gave them out to trick-or-treaters (I know, I know, the little girl across the street probably hates me now!) And amazingly, the persimmon season was beautifully under control this year.

I also collected persimmon recipes all year long and had the luxury of grabbing a stack off the refrigerator to see what I should make. Without further ado, here are two of our favorite ways to eat persimmons—and I’ll follow up soon with a few more I’ve collected that sound good, though I haven’t had a chance to try them yet. These recipes are both from Deborah Madison’s Local Flavors cookbook, which is excellent and well worth owning.

Persimmon Tea Cake
This is my very favorite persimmon recipe. I made it the first month we lived in our house with our very first persimmon crop, and have made it several times a year since then. It’s fabulous and flexible—you can mix up the spices and add-ins in pretty much any combination and end up with a tasty cake. I serve this with fresh cream whipped with creme fraiche; it would also be great with powdered sugar or a light cream cheese frosting.

2 large Hachiyas (very ripe!) to make 1 cup of puree
2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2  tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnnamon
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/8 tsp. cloves
1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 c. light brown sugar, packed
1 egg at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. walnuts, chopped
grated zest of 1 lemon or 1/3 c. candied citrus peel
1/2 c. raisins (optional)
1/2 c. chopped dates (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour an 8-inch springform pan.
  2. Open the persimmons, seed, and scrape pulp into measuring cup. Puree (an immersion blender works well for this if you have one). Mix in baking soda and set aside. Combine the flour, salt, and spices in a bowl.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar till smooth and then beat in the egg, followed by the vanilla and persimmon puree. Add the flour mixture and then fold in the nuts, fruit, and citrus zest.
  4. Scrape the batter into the pan and place in the middle of the oven. Reduce the heat to 325 degrees and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes (or until the cake tests clean). Let cool for 10 minutes before removing rim.

Steamed Persimmon Pudding
I love this one too, but D. is not a steamed pudding fan so we make do with just one of these a year. We don’t have a pudding mold so I just make it in a Pyrex bowl, which seems to work fine. The recipe has accompanying whipped cream and silky persimmon puree recipes, but we rarely make those so you’ll have to hunt the cookbook down for them. I serve this with either hard sauce or brandied whipped cream, depending on how much energy I have.

1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter
2-3 Hachiyas, enough for 1 cup puree
1 c. sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Find a pan that works for a pudding. You will need one 6-to-8-cup bowl or tin for the pudding itself, a second to place upside down underneath it to elevate it, and a third to set the whole shebang in that you can fill up with water. (You want the pudding to essentially cook in a hot water bath.)
  2. Melt the butter. Generously brush some of it over the pudding dish and set aside the rest.  Put the buttered mold on the inverted bowl.  Bring a kettle of water to a boil.
  3. Put the puree in a bowl with the remaining melted butter, sugar, egg, vanilla, milk, and salt.  Whisk until well combined.  Stir the dry ingredients together, then whisk them into the wet ingredients.
  4. Pour the batter into the mold.  Add the boiling water in the water bath pan to come 2/3 of the way up the sides, then cover the pan and cook gently for 1-1/2 hours.  When the pudding is done, a cake tester inserted will come out clean.  Remove it from the pan, then invert it onto a serving plate.  If you’re not ready to serve, leave the mold resting on the pudding so that it will retain its heat.
  5. Serve with whipped cream or whatever other accompaniment you’d like.


  1. I have a pile of persimmon recipes on my blog – I’ve been collecting persimmons from a friend’s towering, 3 stories high Hachiya tree – http://www.livegreenwearblack.com/search/label/persimmons

    Would love to try some of your Fuyu persimmons – can bring you some cookies. 😉

  2. Hi Jenn—We’re down to the dredges on the Fuyus, but if you want what’s left (maybe a half dozen; possibly a dozen if there are any stragglers on the tree) you’re more than welcome to them. I’ll drop you an email once I see what’s still around. Your recipes look awesome—I can’t wait to try them out, since we have several ripe Hachiyas just waiting to get baked into something. Thanks!

  3. Hi, can anyone tell me what putting baking soda into persimmons do? I have a recipe for Persimmon cookies and I mistakely put 3 tablespoons in when I should have put 3 teaspoons in my persimmon pulp. Is this going to ruin my persimmons????? Help! Thanks Jan

  4. Hi Jan—In the cookies, the baking soda is to get them to rise; adding it to the persimmons beforehand offsets the tannins (some sort of chemical reaction that I’m not up on—but the effect is to gel the persimmons).

    From the persimmon perspective, you’re fine, but for the cookies, you’ll have a lot more soda than the recipe intended, so you may get cookies that rise oddly and taste a bit sour. If it’s an option, the best bet is to add more persimmons and triple your recipe. If not, you can just see how it goes….good luck!

  5. Taste plain baking powder and you will get a pretty good idea what it will do to your cookies. It is not so pleasant an experience.

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