When persimmons are in season, we can take advantage of this delicious and unusual fruit for better health. From strengthening the heart to fighting tumor growth, persimmons are low carb, high fiber packets of goodness. And guess what? They’re also great for skin and can help you lose weight!
Have you ever tried a persimmon fruit? I love trying new and unusual fruits of all kinds and in our travels, we’ve come across some very uncommon and strange ones. But, until last year, I’d never tasted a persimmon! I’ve seen them in markets occasionally, but for some reason, I never took the plunge and tried one. I have no idea why…
But, now I know what I was missing! Persimmons are uniquely delicious, with a subtle, yet distinct, flavor and texture.
There are several varieties of persimmons and the ones I’ve tried are delicious in their own ways, you just have to know what to do with each.
Persimmons fall into one of two categories – astringent or non-astringent, and it’s important to know which is which, so you can not only enjoy eating your persimmons, but also gain the health benefits.
For example, the astringent ones turn sweet when ripe, but there’s a trick to what a ripe persimmon looks like, so be sure to check out the section on eating persimmons further down in the article, after the health section.
Read on, and I’ll share with you the outstanding benefits of persimmons for health, beauty and weight loss.
The persimmon is actually a berry, but is referred to as a fruit. In appearance, one of the more popular varieties resembles a tomato, which is also a fruit. There are several species of persimmon trees, but all belong to the Diospyros genus. Persimmons thrive in many areas around the world, and are native to Asian countries such as China, Korea, India and Japan.
There are also varieties found in Europe, throughout United States and Canada. In the northern hemisphere, persimmons are in season anytime from October through February. Not only are the fruits incredibly delicious, but the trees are also gorgeous to watch in the autumn when they are fruiting, and their leaves turn glorious shades of crimson, scarlet, and russet.
The fruits cling to the branches and continue to ripen long after the leaves fall, decorating the barren landscape with contrasting orbs of color.
Not only are persimmons delicious and good for health, but they’re also noted in several world mythologies as symbols of import. I love anything with historically mystical or magical connotations, (because the nature of life can be so mysterious!) so naturally, I was intrigued to learn about the various ways that persimmons have been viewed throughout history.
What is commonly considered “myth” or “folklore” today, often has its roots in long forgotten truths. So, I always like to take a look at history to really understand the deeper qualities or properties of a particular item (like a fruit!) or condition.. And anything that helps us to understand human nature or nature as a whole is helpful, isn’t it? ?
Nowadays, it is scientifically known that persimmons have many astounding health benefits, and historically, persimmons figure prominently into many cultural narratives and legends. And the persimmon fruit is lovely to look at, so it is often depicted in artistic representations, and the decorative arts.
The word Diospyros, is taken from the Greek words “dios” and “pyros” giving rise to the translation as “divine fruit” although there are other more literal interpretations that are not quite so lofty. But, persimmons taste divine, so I’ll go with that definition! 🙂
Further lending to the air of romanticism associated with persimmons is an interpretation of the word as meaning “God’s pear” or “Jove’s fire.”
In English, the word “persimmon” is of Native American origin. It is said that one of the Algonquian tribes who spoke in the Powhatan language, referred to the fruit as “pichamins” which can be translated as “dry fruit.” This might refer to the fact that certain varieties are intensely astringent when eaten unripe and will make your mouth pucker for what feels like hours. Ripe persimmons, though, are sweet and juicy, and the astringent ones can also be dried (known in Japanese as hoshigaki) and eaten much like dates.
Korean folklore includes a traditional fable involving a mischievous tiger who is thwarted by the presence of a sweet persimmon (it’s a longer story dealing with societal connectivity, but the upshot is that the persimmon represents protection). Persimmons and tigers feature regularly into Korean folkloric imagery.
There is also a Japanese tale about a monkey and a crab that involves persimmons, and I’ve found more than one Native American story noting the fruit.
The Chinese appreciate persimmons and enjoy their bright color for its decorative value. Persimmons also represent good luck, especially when paired with other specific fruits. They often appear in Chinese temple gardens due to their representation of four virtues: long life; giving shade, providing a shelter for birds and keeping an area free from insect pests.
And the Farmer’s Almanac, the go-to farmers “bible” guidebook to growing anything in all of the USA growing zones, associates persimmon seeds with forecasting weather. Apparently, if you split open persimmon seeds from a locally grown persimmon (NOTE: it has to be a locally grown persimmon, as you are trying to foretell local weather) you’ll find a line inside each seed that either resembles a fork, knife or spoon.
If you see predominately forks, the winter will be mild. A predominance of knives will bring sharp icy weather (that cuts like knives). And if the spoons dominate, that indicates a shovel, which means you’ll probably be digging out lots of snow!
Esoterically, this kind of divination (finding inspiration through items present in our daily lives) is meant to remind us that we have options, or choices in life.
I tried cutting a persimmon seed open, but it’s really hard because the seeds are tough and very thin. (don’t try this at home!) Then I saw a video of The Persimmon Lady and a friend testing persimmon seeds for the winter of 2021 (in her area) and she was popping them open with her teeth! Ack! Not with my teeth, I’ll have to pass on that! But you should watch her short video; it’s pretty funny.
Here’s my persimmon seed (I only did one) and the one on the left sort of looks like a spoon… so there might be more snow than usual here this winter – yikes! Maybe I should do a few more to be sure?
Persimmons are wonderful fruits, without even getting to the points about how great they are for health. So, let’s move along, and by the end of this article, you’ll have many reasons to get behind making persimmons a part of your diet.
Health Benefits of Persimmons
1. Improves Heart Health
Persimmons are potassium rich, and that is important for relieving hypertension. Functioning as a natural vasodilator, this mineral helps to improve blood circulation and keep blood vessels clear. Due to the presence of additional compounds, such as tannins (that make persimmons astringent), adding persimmons to your diet on a regular basis can lower blood pressure levels and ease the work load on the heart.
2. Anti-Cancer and Anti-Tumor
One of the most amazing benefits of persimmons is that they are chock full of Vitamin A and C, plus numerous other phytonutrients that help to protect against oxidative stress. This means that eating persimmons helps to eliminate free radicals that can weaken our systems. This strengthening of the system can help to prevent the risk of cancer.
Additionally, persimmons are high in betulinic acid, which is known as an anti-tumor compound. Eating persimmons regularly is not only a preventative against tumor formation, but if you already have tumors, betulinic acid can help to keep tumors from growing and metastasizing.
3. Helps Prevent Colds and Flu
The high Vitamin C content naturally found in persimmons, along with other anti-oxidants, makes persimmons an excellent choice for boosting the immune system. Eating persimmons helps increase white blood cell production. A healthy white blood cell count is necessary to avoid infections of all varieties – viral, bacterial and fungal – from taking hold.
Some Native American tribes regularly used the persimmon bark and syrup to help with mouth sores and to alleviate coughs.
4. Improves Blood Quality And Blood Circulation
Persimmons are high in copper, which is very good for improving the quality of blood. Copper helps promote healthy blood cell production and improved blood circulation, which is also good for the heart.
The high amount of anti-oxidants and tannins in persimmons effectively reduces inflammation. This is important, especially in people who suffer from chronic inflammation, which can be a pre-curser to cancer or heart disease.
6. Helps Vision
High in Vitamin C (which counteracts cataracts and macular degeneration) and A (which helps to counteract dry eyes and night blindness) persimmons are a great fruit to keep in our diets to promote better vision. Persimmons are also high in beta-carotene (the natural element that makes persimmons and other orange fruits and veggies orange), lutein, lycopene and several other compounds that function as anti-oxidants. Anti-oxidants fight free radicals that negatively impact our vision.
7. Improves Digestion (Regularity)
Good news! Persimmons are a high fiber food. Added fiber and bulk promote regularity and easier elimination. For those suffering from constipation, eating persimmons can help to increase daily bowel movements, providing necessary relief.
8. Promotes Energy and Improves Metabolism
Eating persimmons improves metabolic function, so including them in the diet can boost your metabolism and provide additional energy. Persimmons have a high natural sugar content, are low in calories and have a high fiber content, so these little fruits not only boost energy, but also increase muscle tone.
9. Aids In Weight Loss
Due to their ability to improve metabolic function, persimmons are a perfect weight-loss food. Because they are low in calories and high in dietary fiber, eating persimmons means increased energy and increased metabolism as mentioned in #8 – and that helps burn away unwanted weight. Additionally, due to the improved digestive qualities of persimmons, water retention is avoided as well.
The longtime popular Parade Magazine also includes persimmons in their list of top fruits for weight loss, due to their high fiber content.
Persimmons For Beautiful Skin
From soaps to face masks to fine cosmetics, the nutrients of the persimmon fruit have been applied in many ways for skin care.
10. Helps Heal Acne
Persimmons are filled with anti-bacterial and anti-microbial phytonutients that combat acne. Not only will eating persimmons help the skin, but you can make a simple face mask with fresh, ripe persimmon pulp that will soothe acne lesions and help to heal them.
11. Relieves Oily Skin
Persimmon fruit is also effective as a cleanser for removing unwanted excess oil on the face. Simply rubbing ripe mashed persimmon fruit on the skin can be helpful. You can also make a mask adding honey and cucumber juice to the persimmon pulp.
12. Anti-Wrinkle, Anti-Aging
The tannins in persimmon fruit are also great for removing the signs of aging that appear over time. Alphahydroxy acids in persimmons can reduce fine lines and wrinkles, while giving the skin a healthy glow.
Persimmons are generally between 2.5-4 inches in diameter (although some can grow to be quite large) and range in color from bright yellow to golden, orange and bright reddish-orange, even tomato red. They can also be found in brownish or brownish-black colors.
There are two main varieties of Diospyros kaki (Japanese or Oriental edible persimmon) that are most commonly available today. They fall into the category of either astringent or non-astringent.
The non-astringent variety of persimmon is known as Fuyu and they are the ones that resemble a tomato; round, with a flat bottom. They can be found in golden or bright orange colors and can be eaten when they’re quite firm and are crunchy, like an apple. The skin is very thin, like an apple skin, and is usually not peeled, but is eaten, when persimmons are sliced into strips, again, like an apple.
The flesh is light yellow-orange in color and has a texture almost like an apple, but with a little more graininess, like a pear. The taste is sort of a cross between those two, but when eaten firm, they are not quite as sweet as either. Totally addictive, though!
Fuyu persimmons can also be eaten when they are fully ripe and then the flesh is soft, brighter orange and much more sweet.
The most popular second type of persimmon, the astringent variety, is the Hachiya persimmon. This variety is heart-shaped, and must be fully ripened to be enjoyed… otherwise it is so astringent your mouth will stay dry and feel like it’s full of fuzz! I tasted homemade persimmon ice cream once and it had been made from astringent persimmons and was quite unpleasant!
And, it is actually not great for health to eat the unripe astringent variety (although they taste so bad that I’m not sure how anyone could!) due to the high tannin content. Once the fruits ripen, the tannin content is lessened to a healthful level and provides excellent benefits, as mentioned above.
The heart-shaped persimmons must be fully ripened and soft (to the point of feeling more mushy than a ripe tomato) to be enjoyed raw, or they can be cooked. When fully ripened, their super-juicy flesh is very soft, bright orange or reddish, and jelly-like. They are often eaten by cutting off the top and scooping out the flesh with a spoon.
They come in normal smallish persimmon sizes and are also available in an enormous heart-shaped tomato red version that, when ripe, looks like a bulbous and swollen water balloon… takes getting used to, but so amazingly delicious! The persimmon skin often has dark spots on it, but that doesn’t mean the fruit is over ripe; I just slice off the spots and find that the flesh underneath is not blemished. Or, as pictured on the right below, just scoop out the flesh and leave the skin.
Other non-astringent varieties of persimmon are Jiru, also flat and round like the Fuyu, and Hyakume or “cinnamon persimmon” with pale yellow flesh that is speckled with brown flecks, like cinnamon. Truly wonderful.
And then there’s the difficult-to-find variety of Hachiya (astringent) persimmon known as the Maru persimmon, also dubbed the “chocolate persimmon”, because when ripe (and you want to wait until its ripe!) the flesh is dark brown like chocolate, with a sort of brown-sugary flavor.
Can you tell that I love persimmons?
Cooking With Persimmons
Believe it or not, I have been so enthralled with eating fresh persimmons that I have not cooked with them yet! But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to….
Persimmons can be used in cooking both savory and sweet items – everything from rich persimmon puddings, pies and cakes (with similar spicing as pumpkin desserts) to adding into savory Asian inspired sweet and sour dishes, as well as sliced into various salads and served as appetizers.
UPDATE: I made some really tasty spiced persimmon mini bundt cakes if you want to check out that recipe… and I learned that you must use the flat bottomed sweet persimmon varieties, because even if you use fully ripened heart-shaped astringent Hachiya persimmon flesh in your cooking, it will turn astringent again with heat! Yuck… that will ruin your dish, whatever it is; I go into all that in the article for my spiced persimmon mini bundts.
Persimmons can also be dried and used in snack trays and uncooked desserts, much like figs and dates. They’re dried in strings, and when I first saw them, I thought they were gargantuan over-sized Medjool dates! Fortunately, someone explained to me what they were, and of course, I had to try them. They are tied together and strung up to dry over time. At the market they were piled in a huge bin and I just picked up the end of one string and the shop keeper cut off the amount that I wanted.
They are amazing and terribly addicting! Yum, yum, yum… much like a date in flavor, and they get a bit more condensed over time and the sugar comes to the surface. Eventually they are covered in little sugar flecks that look like they’ve been dusted in powdered sugar. 100% natural, though!
The dried persimmons that I get are the heart-shaped ones, (on the left, below) although most Japanese and Korean offerings are of the flat-bottomed varieties, (on the right) and look more like donut shaped flat dried fruits, kind of like dried Turkish figs:
Here are a few recipe links if you find persimmons near you and want to check out these additional ideas:
If you decide to cook with persimmons, I’d love to hear about your adventures, so please feel free to drop me a line using the link at the end of the article. 🙂
The lovely, exotic and healthful persimmon fruit is truly a wonder of nature!
Whether you decide to add persimmons to your diet for health reasons or for the exquisite taste, or you decide to try using fresh persimmon pulp as a skin treatment… or you decide to bake with them because you just can’t resist another fun food experiment, you really can’t go wrong when you delve into the world of persimmons. I hope that you benefit from persimmons and that you enjoy them in every way, as much as I do.
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