By Harold McGee
Persimmons are fruits of trees in the genus Diospyros, which is native to both Asia and North America. There’s a plum-sized native American persimmon, D. virginiana, and a Mexican species known as the black sapote (D. digyna), but the most important persimmon species worldwide is D. kaki, a tree with applesized fruits native to China and adopted by Japan; it’s sometimes said that persimmons are to the Japanese what apples are to Americans. Japanese persimmons are sweet, low-acid, mild fruits, with a few brown seeds surrounded by flesh that’s bright orange from various carotenoid pigments, including beta-carotene and lycopene. They have a very mild aroma reminiscent of winter squash that probably derives from breakdown products of carotenoids.