What is a persimmon?
Scoop out the soft, jammy flesh of a ripe persimmon and eat it straight off the spoon. With their exceptionally sweet flesh, you can also bite into a firm, crunchy persimmon just like you would an apple. The fruit is perfect added to salsas or simply combined with a handful of spinach and walnuts and drizzled with balsamic vinegar for a fabulous salad.
Persimmons are native to China, where they have been cultivated for many centuries. The Italian merchant traveller, Marco Polo, traded persimmons in the 14th century and the fruit spread to Korea, Japan and eventually the Mediterranean coasts of France, Italy and Algeria.
By the 1800s persimmons had been introduced to California and Australia.
Nowadays, persimmons are a major part of the Chinese, Japanese and Korean fruit markets and together these countries produce more than 1,000,000 tonnes each year. The fruit is not very popular in Australia, although there are growing markets in Asia for fruit produced here.
In Australia there are two types of persimmon available, the astringent ‘soft’ type and the non-astringent ‘crunchy’ type. The astringent persimmon has a slightly flattened top, whereas the non-astringent type has a pointed top and is heart-shaped.The astringent persimmon is only edible when it has become soft and jelly-like and loses its bitterness. Varieties that are astringent include the flat seedless, Hachiya, Hiratenshi and the Dai Dai Maru.Non-astringent persimmons can be eaten when they are firm. They have a crisp texture similar to an apple when eaten at this stage. This type can also be left to soften slightly before eating. The texture of the fruit becomes more like a plum and, if left longer, it will become jelly-like. Varieties that are non-astringent include the Fuyu, Izu, Maekawa, Jiro, Matsumoto, and Wase Fuyu.
Why persimmon is good to eat
- Persimmon is a good source of vitamin C (needed for the growth and repair of tissues in the body) and contains vitamin A (important for growth and development and the maintenance of your immune system).
- It also contains minerals such as potassium (which helps to regulate blood pressure), and calcium (involved in the regulation of muscle, heart and nerve function and keeping bones strong).
- Persimmons contain dietary fibre, which is important for a healthy bowel.
- Energy – 100 g of persimmon supplies 280 kJ.
How are they grown and harvested?
Persimmon trees grow best in subtropical and temperate climates (the non-astringent varieties need warmer conditions for the fruit to mature than the astringent varieties). They prefer full sun and should be protected from strong winds.
The persimmon tree is deciduous (loses its leaves every year) and can grow up to 7 m. The flowers of the persimmon tree are either cream-coloured (female) or pink (male). Most trees produce either male or female blossoms but some develop both types of flower (in Australia the commercial cultivars are female). The tree starts producing fruit after about three or four years of growth.
Persimmons grow to about the size of an apple. They start out yellow and become orange and even a tangerine-red colour when fully developed. Astringent persimmons should be harvested when they are firm. If you leave them on the tree, they will soften and become ripe but birds and possums may eat them. Non-astringent persimmons should be harvested when their colour has developed fully and there is no green on the skin.
It is best to harvest persimmons with pruning shears. Snip the fruit and leave the stem and the calyx (the top green part of the fruit that is attached to the stem) intact. Avoid pulling the persimmon from the tree as you risk removing the calyx and damaging the fruit.
Choose persimmons that are plump and round and have smooth glossy skin. Avoid those that have split skin or bruises or other visible damage.
How to store and keep persimmons
Store unripe persimmons at room temperature. Store ripe persimmons in the crisper section of your fridge. Completely ripe persimmons will keep for a few days when stored in the fridge.
Persimmons can be ripened by placing them in a brown paper bag along with a banana or an apple.
How to use
- Serve a simple chicken dish – slice non-astringent, firm persimmons, toss with chopped parsley and mint leaves, top with slices of cooked chicken breast, then drizzle with a yoghurt, lemon, chopped rosemary and thyme dressing.
- Make a persimmon salad – toss chopped ripe persimmon and avocado with mixed salad leaves, then add crispy fried bacon, a handful of mixed nuts and dress with vinaigrette before serving.
- Try a Thai beef dish – slice a non-astringent persimmon, toss with chopped coriander, mint, Thai basil leaves, red chilli and sliced shallots, then add sliced grilled beef and dress with a garlic, lime juice and fish sauce mixture.
This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by:
Better Health Channel
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