What are Persimmons?
I've been amazed that so many people have no idea what a persimmon is. While doing some research for this blog I discovered most people online say that the big persimmons that you sometimes see in grocery stores are the most common. I disagree with that. Here in the Midwest the most common persimmon is the Common Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana). For many years I didn't know there was even a larger version of a persimmon. So today we're going to talk about the Common American Persimmon, Diospyros virginiana.
Persimmons are an edible fruit that grows on trees that range from 15 - 60 feet tall with alternate, simple leaves that vary between 2 - 6 inches long and 1 - 3 inches wide. the fruit of most persimmon trees is approximately 3 inches in diameter. Persimmon season typically lasts from September through December. In northern climates the fruit is best after the first frost. In zone 6 and higher they are usually ripe from September to October. The ones you usually see in grocery stores are the Fuyu, which is a non-astringent variety or the Hachiya which is astringent.
The fruit is ripe when it is soft and most often after it has fallen from the tree. If it's green or orange and hard it is not ripe and the taste is very astringent. The persimmon shape is similar to a tiny pumpkin. It's best to eat when the fruit is soft so you know the inside will be sweet. Persimmons have several seeds inside one piece of fruit and are usually pureed for use in cooking/baking.
Persimmons are rich in many nutrients such as vitamins A, C, E, K, B6, Potassium, Copper, manganese and iron. They contain phytonutrients such as gallocatechin (an antioxidant), catechin (a natural phenol and antioxidant) and betulinic acid that has antimalarial, anti-inflammatory and antiretroviral properties. They are also rich in fiber. The leaves are also high in tannins, fiber and vitamin C. Dry the leaves for use in tea.
Some health benefits of the American Persimmon are supporting the immune system, protection against heart disease such as atherosclerosis. They help to reduce the risk of stroke and cancer. And the tannin-rich fiber has been shown to be effective in treating high cholesterol. The tannins give foods a chalky feel in the mouth and are slightly bitter when not fully ripened.
The persimmon peel contains flavinoids that have proven to have anti-diabetic and antioxidant properties and protect against the formation of advanced glycation end products and harmful compounds that form with fat or protein combine with sugar in the blood and they are high in soluble dietary fiber that helps to prevent blood sugar spikes and slows the digestion of carbohydrates, so they are helpful for diabetics. They are helpful for eye health due to the vitamin A content in the fruit and lutein in the persimmon skin.
The best ways to eat persimmon are by themselves as long as you're sure they are ripe, in persimmon pudding, cookies, cheesecake, muffins, quick breads and jam. Other ways they can be eaten are in place of apples and sliced and added to salads. or add to your breakfast granola or oatmeal. They can also be dried or dehydrated.
The seeds of the persimmon are typically cut open to see if the inside shows a spoon, knife or fork. A spoon means you'll be shoveling a lot of snow. A knife means it will be so cold it cuts through you. A fork is a mild winter. The seeds can also be dried, roasted and used as a coffee substitute. I plan to try the seeds in place of coffee this year.
Do you have persimmons in your area?Have you ever eaten a persimmon, used the leaves for tea or the seeds for coffee? Tell us your thoughts. We welcome all comments.