Ask 10 people on the street what fruit reminds them of autumn and it is not likely that even one would say, "persimmon!" Fewer still are aware that persimmons grow wild in woods, fields and along streets from Connecticut to Florida.

The yellow-skinned fruit turns soft and orange after being ripened by frost. But beware. Tasting before a frost has caused many a child and neglectful animal to retreat from that terribly bitter taste. When that first frost has passed and cool nights continue, persimmons can be gathered until Christmas, since frequently the fruit hangs on the trees that long.

The Japanese persimmon (Diospyros kaki ), a native of China and Japan was brought to this country in the late 1800s. Unlike the American persimmon, (Diospyros Virginiana ) it keeps well in stores and is grown in the southern states and California for sale in stores across the country.

This larger, meatier, Japanese fruit has a flavor similar to apricots. "Eureka" and "Tane-Nashi" are two recommended varieties that produce large, flavorful fruit and a burst of autumn color as the foliage turns yellow and red. Select soft, yellow-orange American persimmons and remove from the branches. The ones that have fallen to the ground usually are ripe. The Japanese varieties will be soft to the touch.

Store persimmons in a plastic bag in the crisper section of the refrigerator. To prepare for use, wash and cut in half to remove the seeds and cut off the blossom end. To obtain a creamy consistency for use in puddings, chop finely, or blend for 10 seconds. Prepare the pulp and have it ready before beginning to make the recipe. Since the Japanese pulp is juicier, some recipes may suggest using more flour or thickening agent. Any extra pulp may be frozen for use later.

Persimmons are easier to handle if chilled first. To use in a salad, peel by rubbing the skin with the blunt edge of a paring knife and then peeling with the blade. A medium-sized Japanese persimmon contains 78 calories.

One or more of the following recipes combined with meat and a green vegetable will make a delicious weekend dinner. PERSIMMON BREAD

(Make 2 loaves) 3 1/2 cups unbleached flour 2 teaspoons soda 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1 teaspoon nutmeg 2 cups persimmon pulp 3 cups sugar 1 cup oil 4 eggs 2/3 cups water

Sift dry ingredients in large bowl. Make a well. Add all other ingredients and mix until smooth. Place in 2 well-greased 9-by-5-by-3-inch bread pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. (Raisins or chopped nuts may be added; use 1 cup of each.)

This bread freezes well or keeps for 2 weeks in the refrigerator. PERSIMMON-GRAPEFRUIT SALAD (6 servings) 6 Japanese persimmons 3 grapefruit 1 avacado

Wash and peel persimmons (rub with blunt edge of knife and then peel). Peel and section grapefruit. Peel and slice avocado, dipping slices in grapefruit juice to prevent darkening. Arrange fruit on salad greens on individual plates. PERSIMMON COOKIES (Makes 3 to 4 dozen) 1 teaspoon soda 1 cup persimmon pulp 1 cup sugar 1/2 cup margarine 2 cups flour 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon slat 1 egg 1 teaspoon vanilla 1 cup each, nuts and raisins, chopped finely 1/4 cup water

Mix soda in pulp. Cream sugar and margarine. Mix and sift flour with cinnamon and salt. Beat egg; add to pulp. Combine all ingredients. Add water it dough is too thick to drop. Drop onto greased cookie sheet with teaspoon. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes or until done. PERSIMMON PUDDING (6 to 8 servings) 2 cups persimmon pulp 3 eggs 1 1/4 cups light brown sugar 1 1/2 cups flour (1/4 cup less for American persimmons) 1 teaspoon baking powder 1 teaspoon soda 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup melted butter or margarine 2 1/2 cups milk 2 teaspoons cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg 1 cup chopped nuts or raisins (optional)

Combine all ingredients together. Bake in a 9-by-9 inch baking dish for 1 hour at 325 degrees, or until firm. Serve with whipped cream.