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Persimmons

These sweet yet tart Japanese fruits are a key ingredient in many American recipes, including jams, jellies, preserves, fruit butters, cookies, puddings and cakes.

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Nutritional Highlights.

  • Persimmons are a dense source of vitamin A, a nutrient that helps promote healthy eyes and good eyesight. A medium-sized, 140-gram fruit delivers 15 percent of your Daily Value of the nutrient.
  • Likewise, persimmons are a good source of vitamin C, an essential antioxidant that helps repair body tissue and heal wounds.
  • Finally, eating persimmons can help keep your digestion moving, since these fruits are a good source of dietary fiber.

History

Persimmons have deep roots in both Asia and North America. When settlers in the British Colonies first tried the American persimmon, they found the small, orange fruit to be too tart for their taste. Fortunately, Native Americans told them to wait until after the first frost of autumn before eating persimmons - not because the chill enhances the flavor, but because of the fruit's cold-season peak. In Asia, persimmons have been valued since ancient times. They were initially cultivated in China and Japan. The first Westerner to bring so-called Oriental persimmons to the U.S. was Commodore M.C. Perry, who took a crate of the fruits with him to Washington, D.C. in 1856. Since then, Asian persimmons have dominated the market.

Varieties

The two main kinds of persimmon sold in stores both originated in Asia. The Hachiya, by far the most common variety, accounts for about 90 percent of the persimmons sold in stores. Acorn-shaped, they’re very tart when unripe. Once ripe, however, they become soft and sweet. The other common persimmon, the Fuyu, is smaller, sweeter and tomato-shaped.

When are Persimmons in Season?

The prime months for persimmons fall between September and December, with peak season being November when they taste the sweetest.

How to Choose Persimmons

The best persimmons are a deep orange, with smooth, shiny skin and a plump softness. These are ripe and should be eaten quickly. For persimmons that will last a bit longer, go for more lightly colored fruits that have a firmer feel.

How to Store Persimmons

Put ripe persimmons in the fridge. If unripe, leave persimmons out in a fruit bowl or cabinet at room temperature. This will allow the fruit to soften and sweeten, something that's especially important when eating Hachiyas. A ripe Hachiya contains sweet, soft pulp, while an unripe one is so tart, that it'll pucker your lips and suck the moisture from your mouth!

How to Prepare Persimmons

Prep persimmons as you would tomatoes. After washing them in cold water, cut away the leafy top and slice into sections. These can be eaten raw or added while cooking recipes. Persimmons have edible skin, so they only occasionally need to be peeled, such as when making fruit preserves.

Key Measurements

Given their size, persimmons generally appear in recipes measured out in individual fruits (sliced, chopped or blended).

Substitutions

The best fruity substitutes for persimmons are plums. However, when baking, use pumpkin pulp to match the color and the sweet, soft consistency of persimmons.
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