‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house;
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of persimmons danced in their heads!
Known as the forgotten winter fruit, persimmons hang from their trees like bright orange ornaments as autumn fades to winter. With a sweet, honey-like flavor, this festive fruit packs an equally powerful punch of flavor and nutrients.
What are Persimmons?
The persimmon is an edible fruit that comes from the persimmon tree. Its texture is similar to an apricot with edible skin that is a little tougher than an apple’s. Native to Japan and China, persimmons now grow all over the world – including right here in central and eastern North Carolina.
Types of Persimmons
The two most common varieties of persimmons sold in the United States are the Fuyu and Hachiya, with Fuyus making up almost 80% of the market. The main difference between Fuyu and Hachiya persimmons is that Hachiyas are very astringent with a high concentration of tannins (i.e. mouth puckering) until completely ripe. If you ever take a bite of an unripe Hachiya persimmon, it’s an experience you will never forget (and likely never repeat!).
Fuyu Persimmons are:
- short and squat, resembling tomatoes;
- slightly crisp;
- best eaten when orange in color and slightly soft.
Hachiya Persimmons are:
- slightly larger than Fuyus with an elongated acorn shape;
- pudding-like when ripe with flesh that can be scooped out with a spoon;
- only eaten once squishy and fully ripe!
Look for persimmons at your local grocery store, farmers’ market or specialty Asian market from October to January. When selecting persimmons, choose fruits that are smooth and blemish-free with a little give when gently squeezed (similar to selecting tomatoes).
To get the most out of your persimmons, enjoy when fully ripe. This is true for all varieties, but especially for the more astringent Hachiyas. It can take quite a while for persimmons to ripen, so be patient and don’t eat them too early! To speed up the ripening process, store in a paper bag with a ripe banana on the countertop. Persimmons are ripe when soft to the touch and somewhat squishy (envision the feel of a water balloon).
Health Benefits of Persimmons
In addition to its sweet flavor, persimmons also have some sweet health benefits. Loaded with antioxidants, fiber, vitamin C, manganese and over half your daily requirement of vitamin A, persimmons can:
- decrease inflammation,
- support healthy vision,
- reduce cholesterol,
- lower blood pressure and
- promote regularity.
How to Eat Persimmons
If you’ve never eaten these wonky-looking tomatoes, you may wonder what to do with them. Persimmons can be eaten raw, cooked or dried. The skin is thin and completely edible but if you don’t love the texture, peel before eating.
- For Fuyus, simply slice off the green top and cut into wedges. If you happen to see any small dime-sized seeds, remove before eating.
- For Hachiyas, cut in half and scoop out the flesh.
Persimmons work well in a variety of recipes, adding a boost of nutrients and flavor to everything from salads, lentils and proteins to smoothies, baked goods and granola. They’re also great roasted or tossed with a little mint and honey for a fall fruit salad (recipes below).
The next time you run across persimmons, pick some up and start enjoying the natural sweetness of this forgotten winter fruit!
Persimmon Pomegranate Fruit Salad
3-4 ripe persimmons
¾ cup pomegranate seeds
7-10 fresh mint leaves
2 tsp lemon juice
½ tsp honey
- Cut off the crown of the persimmons. You can eat the peel but if you don’t like the texture, peel them.
- Chop persimmons and apple into bite-sized pieces. If you happen to find a seed in the persimmons, remove and discard.
- Stack mint leaves, roll them up like a cigar and thinly slice from the end to create ribbons.
- Gently toss all ingredients together in a bowl.
- Serve immediately or store in the fridge for 1-2 days.
Makes 2-3 servings
4 ripe persimmons, thinly sliced
spice(s) of choice, to taste (cinnamon, ginger, paprika, cumin, salt, etc.)
- Pre-heat oven to 375°F.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Cut crowns off persimmons and thinly slice into rounds. The thinner the slice, the crispier it will get in the oven. (You can eat the peel, but if you don’t like the texture peel before slicing.)
- Sprinkle persimmons with spice(s) of choice.
- Place in an even layer on the baking sheet.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the edges start to curl up.