Take the persimmon challenge

Name that persimmon.

Name that persimmon.

If it crunches like an apple, they say it’s a Fuyu. And if it feels like a water balloon, they say it’s a Hachiya. But rarely does anyone stop to wonder why, in this wide world of fruits, we have just two varieties of persimmon.

In fact, we don’t. Scores of varieties grow, but for marketing purposes, vendors seem to have done away with all varietal names other than the ubiquitous Fuyu and Hachiya. On your next walk through a farmers’ market, note the so-called Fuyu persimmons at each of a half-dozen produce stalls. Don’t some of them look a tad smaller, larger, redder?

It might be because not all are what they claim to be. Annie Main, co-owner of Good Humus Produce in Esparto, suspects that obscure crunchy persimmon varieties are being sold as Fuyu and obscure ripe-when-soft persimmons as Hachiya. Main, who grows persimmons, said, “There are all these wonderful varieties, but marketingwise, it just helps to just call them ‘Fuyus’ or ‘Hachiyas.’”

Because what if someone sells you a sack of Yotsumizu persimmons, all as firm as apples? Do you let them soften or eat them crunchy? Answer: Let them soften, for this cultivar is one of the astringent-when-hard-sweet-when-soft types—but how would you know if it wasn’t called a “Hachiya”?

Likewise, if you buy a bag of rock-hard Chien Ting persimmons, you might never know that you could chomp into this juicy yet nutty-flavored fruit unless someone told you it was a “Fuyu.”

But persimmon farmer Mike Arata in Brentwood says there is no swindle at work; the industry truly is based on Fuyus and Hachiyas alone. In the presence of too many cultivars, he explained, the risk would be too great that confused consumers might bite into unripe astringent types—a mishap that could easily turn a consumer off of persimmons forever.

Good Humus Produce sells genuine Fuyus and Hachiyas on Wednesdays and Saturdays at the Davis Farmers Market, while Mel Garibaldi Farms sells five persimmon varieties. Buy, taste, compare and contrast, and take no Fuyu for granted.