Persimmons - Tips on Eating Persimmons & Their Health Benefits

Persimmons - Tips on Eating Persimmons & Their Health Benefits
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Facts about Persimmons

Persimmons originated in China, where they have been grown for many centuries. From China, they spread to other areas of Asia and beyond. They are the national fruit of Japan, traditionally eaten on New Year’s Day. Diospyros virginiana is a variety of persimmon native to the eastern United States. The genus name Diospyros is a Greek word meaning “food of the gods.” In the 1800s, Japanese persimmons were introduced to California, where they are currently produced in large numbers. Persimmons are in season in the fall, from September through December, with the peak season in November.

It is important to wait until persimmons are fully ripe before eating them, because unripe persimmons are very bitter and astringent, causing an unpleasant “puckering” sensation in the mouth. The astringent property of persimmons is due to the high amount of tannins that they contain. The tannins disappear once the fruit is fully ripe.

Types of Persimmons

While there are numerous varieties of persimmons, the two varieties most commonly available in markets in the United States are fuyu and hachiya. Fuyu persimmons are smaller and resemble tomatoes in size and shape, and they remain relatively firm when ripe. Fuyu persimmons are also known as “non-astringent” persimmons, because they contain a lower amount of tannins and can be eaten while still firm.

Hachiya persimmons are larger and slightly pointed at the bottom, like an acorn. They are very soft when fully ripe.

Health Benefits of Persimmons

Persimmons are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, several B vitamins, folate, calcium, magnesium, zinc, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, iron and copper. They also contain phytonutrients including the antioxidants cryptoxanthin beta, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin. Their high levels of dietary fiber, antioxidant compounds and trace minerals are believed to help lower the risk of atherosclerosis.

How to Buy and Use Persimmons

When purchasing persimmons, choose those that are orange, not yellow, in color, and are already somewhat soft. They will finish ripening if left at room temperature. Once fully ripe, they should be refrigerated. Ripe persimmons can be frozen for later use, and they can also be dried. The drying process removes all traces of astringency or bitterness, leaving the chewy dried fruit as sweet as candy. Dried persimmons are tasty as snacks, in trail mix, or added to hot cereal or dessert recipes.

Persimmon skins are edible, but if desired they can be peeled, or the skins can be easily removed by blanching, which is immersing the fruit briefly in boiling water.

Firm fuyu persimmons can be cut up and eaten like an apple, or included in fruit or vegetable salads, as a topping for hot or cold cereal, in salsa, chutney, pie, pureed and made into jam, or blended in smoothies.

The soft hachiya variety are best cut in half and the soft flesh scooped out with a spoon. They are delicious additions to desserts such as puddings, and add moistness and flavor to cake, pies, cookies, and sweet breads.

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