Persimmons: What They Are, Health Benefits and How to Eat Them
This sweet fruit is the gem of the fall harvest.
If you've wandered around the farmers' market and eyed a unique piece of produce in shades of amber, ochre or crimson, you may have stumbled upon the persimmon. With an intoxicating flavor of honeyed pumpkin and ripe apricot, the persimmon is a fresh replacement for the usual fall suspects, apples and pears. It's a fruit that ancient Greeks called the "fruit of the gods." You might be wondering what is a persimmon and what is it good for?
What Is a Persimmon?
Persimmons are edible fruits that come from a number of trees in the genus Diospyros, but there are many varieties. They're native to China and that's where most come from, but Spain and South Korea grow a significant amount too. They're also grown in North America: in California, a lot of people have American persimmon trees (Diospyros virginiana) in their backyards and have been known to produce an overabundance of persimmon fruit every autumn.
While there are many different types of persimmons, the two most common are Fuyu and Hachiya persimmons. And even those two varieties fall into two different categories: astringent varieties and non-astringent.
Types of Persimmons and How to Eat Persimmons
Hachiyas are astringent persimmons and are known for being acorn-shaped. If you take a bite of a hard, unripe Hachiya, you'll immediately learn why it falls into the astringent category. It has a mouth-puckering effect because it's so tart. They don't have the same effect once they're ripe and very soft. When they're ripe, you can cut the top off and scoop out the honey-sweet flesh.
Getting Hachiyas to a delicious state of ripeness is easy enough. Just set them out at room temperature for a couple of days until they're soft like a ripe tomato. If you want them to ripen a little faster, put them in a paper bag with a ripe banana. They'll absorb the ethylene gas from the banana, which speeds up the ripening process–it's what commercial growers use to ripen fruit after picking.
Fuyus (Diospyros kaki also known as date plums) are the red-orange colored, tomato-shaped, non-astringent type. The benefit of choosing these is that they don't need to be fully ripe to eat them. Additionally, there is no pit and no seeds, so they're easy to slice and eat. You can even bite into them like an apple, but some people think the skin is too tough to eat raw. If you want to peel them, it's easy to cut the skin off after they've been cut into slices. You can also use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin.
Persimmon Health Benefits
Persimmons aren't just pretty; they have plenty of nutritional value as well. If you're looking to regulate your cholesterol and blood pressure or you just want to improve your digestion, know that one persimmon (168 grams or about 6 ounces) offers 20% of the Daily Value for dietary fiber.
If you want to help maintain your eye health and help promote a healthy immune system, one whole fruit provides 15% of the Daily Value for vitamin A.
These fruits are also good sources of a nutrient that can help keep your bones, cartilage and skin healthy. One fruit contains about 14% of the Daily Value for vitamin C.
Cooking with Persimmons
There's a lot you can do with this fruit. You can make baked goods with them for sweet treats— try EatingWell's recipe for Persimmon Streusel Cake. They also make a tasty snack dried and work in savory dishes as well. They star in this Farro Salad with Cranberries & Persimmons for the perfect balance of sweet and savory.