Season for Persimmons September - December
We Americans may only have one foot on this fruit's bandwagon, but a little education and we may fully embrace the persimmon, national fruit of Japan. It seems many people have the experience of biting into a persimmon to be met by an astringent, furry foodstuff - off putting to say the least - relegating this fruit to a fall decoration. The problem lies not in this deliciously unique berry, but in our common indulgence in the under-ripe varieties. Most likely, we come across Hachiya persimmons, identifiable through their acorn-esque shape, and they must be soft and ripe to be eaten and enjoyed. Another variety, the Fuyu persimmon, looks more like an heirloom tomato and is smaller, sweeter and can be eaten while still firm.
How to Buy and Store Persimmons
When choosing your sunset-hued persimmons, look for those that are deepest in color with red undertones, are plump with a glossy, smooth skin and have their green leaves in tact. Avoid those with blemishes, bruises or cracked skin. Select ripe persimmons only if you plan to eat them immediately, as they will quickly turn to mush. You can buy firmer fruits and allow them to ripen at home, a process that can be hastened by placing them in a paper bag at room temperature with an apple or banana. Once ripe, you can store them in the refrigerator and eat as soon as possible.
Like we mentioned before, unripe Hachiya persimmons are very unpleasant tasting, so wait for them to feel soft to the touch and enjoy their juiciness then. Ripe Fuyu persimmons are firmer and will taste crisp and sweet.
How to Cook Persimmons
The persimmon becomes a versatile fruit once ripened and can be eaten fresh, dried, raw or cooked. When eaten fresh, the skin is usually cut/peeled off (but reconsider this, as the skin is super healthy) and eaten in the same manner as an apple. Very ripe persimmons can be eaten by removing the top leaf with a paring knife and scooping out the flesh with a spoon as you would pudding (as the texture can be just like pudding).
In the state of Indiana the persimmon is a beloved fruit, and used in many desserts, most notably pies. They have an annual persimmon festival, featuring a persimmon pudding contest held every September. This is a baked pudding with the consistency of pumpkin pie, but it resembles a brownie and is topped with whipped cream - a unique creation indeed. As persimmons grow in popularity, we're seeing them featured in upscale restaurants' gastronomical creations. At home, you can add persimmon slices to salads, relishes, or puree them to make smoothies, jellies, a topping for pancakes and waffles, or use them as a flavoring for plain yogurt.
Health Benefits of Persimmons
The vivid persimmon is both high in fiber and an excellent source of vitamin A. The bitter, astringent taste of immature persimmons is due to health-promoting tannins, the same polyphenols found in tea. In addition to the tannins, persimmons contains two compounds known as shibuol and betulinic acid that are thought to have anti-cancer properties. A study conducted in Japan showed that the peel of the persimmon contains phytochemicals known as proanthocyanidins which may protect cells against oxidative damage associated with aging. Therefore, we like to keep our skins intact, whether enjoying this fruit raw or cooking it into our favorite desserts.
Why Buy Natural and Organic Persimmons
In season, you should have no problem finding an organic persimmon at your local farmers market. Though there is little information pertaining to the pesticide load on persimmons, and it's said the fruit is hardy and immune to pests, the tree itself can be susceptible to disease - meaning, it's likely pesticides are used on conventional persimmon trees. So, as always, we recommend buying organic persimmons. You can also peel them, but remember, peeling is never fool proof, as the toxins can infiltrate the whole of the fruit, plus you peel off much of its healthy properties.
Looking for a quick breakfast? Try these delicious whole rolled oats that cook up in just a few minutes. Or make this recipe in large batches on the weekend so you have for the week.