Diospryros: food of the gods (“Dios” means God; “pyros” means grain or food.). That’s Latin for persimmon- and if you were one of the 6,500 students who tasted persimmons this month at school through Sierra Harvest, you understand just how this glowing orange fruit got its name. For the rest of us, there may be a trip to the grocery store in the future to validate these claims.
This shiny fruit is common and unknown at the same time. Keep your eyes peeled, persimmons grow well in our area and you may find them decorating bare trees like delicious holiday ornaments.
There are two main types of persimmons, Fuyu and Hachiya. Hachiyas are acorn shaped and are ready when soft; before they are soft the fruit is extremely astringent (ie: oh why is all the moisture evaporating from my tongue??). The Fuyu are a more firm fruit, shaped like a tiny pumpkin with a lovely hat on, these have been bred to not have the same astringency as the Hachiya type.
Through the Harvest of the Month program, students tasted Fuyus from Pearson Family Orchards out of Arboga, CA. The Pearson family has been growing fruit for nearly 60 years! A 4th generation family farm, the Pearsons were one of the first valley farms to switch from flood irrigation to drip irrigation, incorporating sustainable farming methods such as water conservation, mulching, cover cropping, crop rotation, limited tillage and encouragement of wildlife habitat. Thanks to Peaceful Valley Farm Supply, you can see the Pearson’s farm and learn all about the persimmons in this short video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-2NuhwZXps
A member of the ebony family, persimmons are an excellent source of Vitamin A, with 50% of the Daily Value coming from 1 serving of this festive fruit.
Free of cholesterol, sodium, and fat, persimmons boast trace amounts of iron and calcium (2% each of the Daily Value) and are an excellent source of dietary fiber, providing 6 grams/serving. Other accolades include their antioxidant power (they contain 20% of the Daily Value of Vitamin C) and their composition of phytochemicals, such as carotenoids and bioflavanoids. These nutritional properties translate into many health benefits, such as a healthier heart and immune system, a decreased risk of certain cancers, and healthy vision maintenance.
So persimmons are great for you, and what’s even better than that? They taste like honey, or vanilla sugar, or something that’s almost too sweet…almost.
Here are some fun facts about the persimmon:
- Tea can be made from fresh or dried persimmon leaves
- Persimmons are native to China, where there are over 2,000 different varieties! More than 1,000 years ago this tree was introduced to Japan and has also become a large part of Japanese food and culture. For instance, unripe persimmons are full of tannin, which is used to brew sake and preserve wood there. The small, non-edible fruit from wild persimmon trees in Japan are crushed and mixed with water making a solution that is painted on paper to repel insects. This solution is also thought to give cloth moisture-repellent properties.
- The most common type of persimmons grown in the U.S. are the D. kaki species. At least 500 different D. kaki varieties were brought to California during a major planting spree from 1870 to 1920. In 1877 alone, more than 5,000 plants in 19 varieties were imported from Japan!
- Commodore Perry brought seeds back to the United States from Japan after his 1852-54 expedition. The seeds were first planted in the area around Washington, D.C., but were killed by an early frost.
- In 1870, grafted trees were successfully introduced into Georgia and California.
- During the Civil War, some Southern families boiled, roasted, and ground persimmon seeds to produce a drink similar to coffee
Fuyu persimmons add an excellent seasonal sweetness and crunch to salad! Try adding them to a mix of escarole or other bitter greens- the sweetness pairs well. The Hachiya persimmons (read: the squishy ones) are excellent to bake with, or to add to plain yogurt for a snack.
Here’s a persimmon recipe showcasing the best ingredients of the season to make a unique, colorful salsa.
Peaceful Valley Persimmon Salsa
Featured in this month’s Harvest of the Month video!
- 4-5 fuyu persimmons, chopped into small pieces
- 1 small or ½ big apple chopped into small pieces
- Juice of 1 fresh lime
- 1 Tbsp grated ginger
- ½ cup chopped cilantro
- Dash of salt
- ½ cup fresh pomegranate seeds
Mix together, let stand in refrigerator for about 30 minutes and serve with chips of your choice.