Want to Try The ‘Fruit of The Gods’? Pick A Persimmon

The Texas variety has a deep plum color – unlike the better known, bright orange Asian varieties.

By Joy DiazDecember 17, 2015 9:45 am|

Have you ever had a persimmon? You may have seen them at the store. The fruit looks a lot like a tomato or a plum, depending on the variety you get. One bite would reveal the difference.

Explorer John Smith once said, “If it not be ripe, it will draw a man’s mouth awry with much torment.” But if it is ripe? Delicious.

As it turns out, the fruit is also very Texan. North America has only two native persimmon varieties, both grown in Texas. While they are in grocery stores, the fall fruit hasn’t proven very popular.

Elias Guerrero is a horticulturist at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin. “The Asian persimmon basically means the fruit of the gods,” he says. “It’s not a fruit – it’s a berry.”

They’re considered “astringent” meaning they have to be very ripe, extremely soft and almost squishy, to be ready to eat.

“They make a really nice port out of the Texas persimmon,” Guerrero says.

The native Texas persimmons are smaller,  green when unripe and “a jet, shiny black” when ripe. “As children I remember we used to freak out our parents,” Guerrero says, “whenever we ate them it would make your mouth jet black.”

The berry was once used to dye cloth and leathers in Mexico and their trees make excellent landscaping plants. Unlike the “pudding” flavor of the bright orange Asian variety, Guerrero says the Lone Star State species has a complex, almost prune-like taste and a much deeper color.

“They almost look like they’re about to rot off the tree,” he says, “and that’s the time to eat those.”

Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.