The flavorful fruit can boost brain function, eye health and more—plus ease a hangover.
With fall’s pumpkin craze winding down, it’s time to direct our attention to a different treat: the persimmon. This medium-size fruit looks similar to an oddly shaped tomato, ranging in color from light orange to red with a green leaf on top.
There are two common commercially available types of persimmon: the nonastringent variety called fuyu (pronounced foo-you), which has a firm texture that’s similar to that of an apple and is typically eaten raw, and the astringent variety, called hachiya (pronounced ha-CHI-ah), which is more often used for cooking due to its tart taste (for one to enjoy it raw, the fruit would have to be well ripened and very soft). Both are of Asian origin, but the varieties available domestically are mostly produced in California. American persimmons, a less common astringent variety, are much smaller than the Asian types and can be grown successfully in New Jersey.
Persimmons are relatively high in calories—a 168-gram fruit rings in at 118 calories, due mostly to its high sugar content. But it’s also chock-full of good stuff. It has 6 grams of fiber (more than an apple) and contains 55 percent of the daily value of vitamin A, which works to improve vision, reduce the effects of aging, and support bone health. It’s also high in vitamin C (21 percent DV), which boosts immune function and helps the body absorb iron, the bone-building manganese (30 percent DV), and vitamin B6 (8 percent DV), which helps with brain function. It’s rich in antioxidants, including carotenoids, which benefit eye health, and tannins, which may promote heart health. Another perk: A 2008 study published in Advances in Horticultural Science claimed the antioxidants in persimmons may ease a hangover
Persimmons come into season from October to December; they can picked and purchased while unripe and left to ripen in the home. Look for fruits with a firm skin that’s not bruised or dented, and store them in a paper bag at room temperature until they soften. Take note that once ripened, they need to be eaten quickly or they will spoil. As mentioned, astringent types need to be very ripe before they are edible. Paul Buxman, a persimmon farmer featured on Martha Stewart, described a ready-toeat hachiya as feeling like “an egg with the shell removed.” He recommends carefully slicing off the top and scooping the flesh out. This variety is typically used in baking, in cookies, cakes and pies. Fuyu can be eaten while it’s still crunchy. Slice it as you would an apple, and serve it raw, on its own or in salads. It goes well alongside apples, pomegranates and autumn vegetables—yes, even pumpkin.
Did You Know?
Captain John Smith must have learned the hard way that the astringent type of persimmon is not to be eaten before it’s fully ripened. Speaking of the American variety, he’s famously quoted as saying, “If it be not ripe, it will draw a man’s mouth awrie with much torment.” —Liz Donovan