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persimmons

My kind of persimmons!

I think persimmons are my favorite fruit. Has it always been this way? Uh-uh, no way, not at all. Where I come from--Detroit back in the 50s and 60s--there weren't any persimmons that I remember. I do remember my first encounter with a persimmon, but I don't remember where or when it was. I mostly remember because of the horrendous feeling that my lips were being turned inside out as the "fruit" was sucking away the moisture in my mouth. Spitting that out ended my persimmon experimentation until I was in California and learned a few things.

Seems there are two major types of persimmons, the "Hachiya" variety, and the "Fuyu." The Hachiya is the one with a pointy end. If you aren't careful and eat it before it's ripe (it has to be mushy--I think really really mushy) you will have the same exciting experience I first had. Some websites call the Hachiya an "astringent" variety of persimmon. Since I relate "astringent" to skin cleansers, it doesn't do much for my appetite.

I first met a Fuyu persimmon when my sister- and brother-in-law had a persimmon tree at their home in San Jose. After first declining the offer, I was convinced to try one and was rewarded with a tasty fruit. Fuyu persimmons can be eaten like apples. They are flat on the bottom, kind of like a tomato. They are sweet even when they are not mushy. I've read some articles about how to eat persimmons, and they recommend peeling them, but I happen to like crunching the peel too. Some varieties have a pit inside and some don't. I just cut them into sixths and eat the whole thing (except the pit, if there is one).

When I discovered the persimmons in San Jose, I was so excited about it that my husband and I begged for a bunch of them and carefully boxed them up and sent them to my parents in Detroit, so they could appreciate them as well. I had to convince them to go ahead and eat them crunchy too.

That was many years ago, and since that time I have always looked forward to persimmon season, usually from October to December or so. I've been indulging in my persimmon habit this season as usual, and I thought I'd do some googling and see what I could find out about them. Follow me below the squiggle to see what I found.

I always thought there were two kinds of persimmons--the Hachiya and the Fuyu, but how wrong I was! Those are the two most common varieties you can find in the U.S., but there are a lot more. In fact, I was surprised to see a list of at least twenty different kinds of persimmons. Persimmons have been cultivated in China for centuries.6 The persimmons we see today originated in China and came to the U.S. through Japan, in the mid 1800s, when Commodore Perry returned to the U.S. with persimmon trees that were planted in Washington, D.C.5 They grow well in areas with moderate winters and mild summers, and therefore can do well in some parts of California.6

The kind of persimmon we already had in the U.S. was quite different in some ways. It was small, but had the same astringent quality, caused by tannin, that is found in the Hachiya variety.2 In fact, Captain John Smith is supposedly quoted as saying, "If it be not ripe it will drawe a mans mouth awrie with much torment; but when it is ripe, it is as delicious as an Apricock."5 The name "persimmon" is derived from putchamin, pasiminan, or pessamin, the names for the native fruit in different dialects of Powhatan, an Algonquian language. 1

It appears that nationwide, the Hachiya is 90 percent of the fruit available in markets, but I was glad to read that the Fuyu is gaining popularity.2 According to one reference, there isn't a large demand outside ethnic markets, but it could have commercial potential as a major crop if and when the market is developed.6

Persimmons have all the good things fruits have, in particular anti-oxidants like Vitamin A, beta-carotene, lycophene, lutein, zeaxanthin and cryptoxanthin. They also are a good source of vitamin C, and have some B vitamins as well, and are also high in potassium.6

If you haven't ever had one and you come across one, by all means try it. (Just make sure it's the kind without the pointy end, unless you wait for it to be very very mushy. Otherwise, you may not try another one for a long time!)

List of references:

1Wikipedia--Persimmon
2Fruits and Veggies Matter--A website by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with the Department of Health and Human Services, and the National Cancer Institute
3Seed to Supper
4Smithsonian Magazine Blogs
5Vegetarians in Paradise
6California Rare Fruit Growers
7Nutrition-and-you.com

Poll

Have you tried Fuyu persimmons?

54%19 votes
2%1 votes
37%13 votes
5%2 votes

| 35 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  They are a bit of a Christmas tradition (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lorikeet, Hoghead99, hopi13

    for us. I always decorate our mantle with fruit and pine garland this time of year. We have a friend who gives us persimmons and they are always included. Dear husband uses them after Christmas to make a persimmon pudding. Yum yum yum.

    Score Card: Marriages won by me, 1. Marriages destroyed by me, 0.

    by Steven Payne on Sat Dec 03, 2011 at 10:35:50 PM PST

  •  My parents (8+ / 0-)

    planted a couple of American persimmons when they moved to west Texas. (The trees were male and female.) When the fruit is really ripe, it's pretty good, but small. It has to be sort of brownish and wrinkly before you eat it: that kind of really ripe. (It isn't true that you have to wait until after a frost, it's just that in most of the places it grows, frost comes first.)

    Japanese persimmons are a lot bigger, and very pretty, especially Hachiyas, with their orange color: a tree that decorates itself for Christmas!

    They're all good for bread and cookies and other baked stuff, as well as eating fresh.

    (Is it time for the pitchforks and torches yet?)

    by PJEvans on Sat Dec 03, 2011 at 10:35:58 PM PST

  •  The native persimmons (5+ / 0-)

    back in Indiana are quite good. But yes, get an unripe one and it is something you will not forget!

    Hiking through the woods in the late fall finding a tree full of ripe persimmons is a lot of fun. If the tree is small enough that you can shake it, that is!

    Deer like them also.

    This better be good. Because it is not going away.

    by DerAmi on Sat Dec 03, 2011 at 11:17:39 PM PST

  •  They grow so well here in N California (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lorikeet, Hoghead99, exterris

    We planted one of each in my mother's backyard, and they've been yielding fruits for the last 20 years without anyone having to do anything with them. The only fruit that grows easier around here is the fig.

    I am a huge fan of the Hachiya variety myself. Part of the fun is the anticipation- waiting for it to ripen. When it's soft and mushy, it's like Nature's ice cream.

    The Fuyu kind is great for drying though.

  •  If you live in coastal California, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lorikeet, Hoghead99, Catte Nappe

    which doesn't have the colorful turning of the leaves of fall, the persimmon is a stand in stand out.  Best, beautiful leaf color available.  

    Democrats - We represent America!

    by phonegery on Sun Dec 04, 2011 at 12:51:04 AM PST

  •  I never dreamed...... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    exterris, Pinto Pony, Lorikeet

       ...there'd be persimmon-lovers on teh Kos!

       We have only the kind that were already growing "wild" in the woods around here. (South-Central Illinois). I do love them, and the comments above are 100% correct about the frost. I always say that, "The worser it looks, the better it tastes."

        Like any wild fruit, they're mostly skin and seeds, but when you find a batch of ripe ones, well...... is "better than sex" too strong a phrase?

       We usually manage to manufacture a pan or two of persimmon pudding each autumn. Very tasty when nuked and then with a scoop of Prairie Farms vanilla ice cream on top!

       Thank you for this diary!

    Best, Hoghead99

    Compost for a greener planet.............got piles?

    by Hoghead99 on Sun Dec 04, 2011 at 03:36:14 AM PST

  •  Growing up in rural Ky (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lorikeet

    we had persimmons trees everywhere.  They were the favorite of opossums and racoons in the Fall.  My Dad showed me that when you crack the seed of the persimmon lengthwise you will find either a knife or a spoon likeness imprinted in the seed.  He was right about the native species, wonder if the Kuyu have the same imprint.

  •  Thanks! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lorikeet, Catte Nappe

    Fellow-Kossack, Charlotte Lucas, and I have just had an email exchange about this fruit.  She had something with persimmons in it for Thanksgiving, I think.  I've never tried them and wonder if anything I could get here in Iowa would be worth trying.  Sometimes exotic fruit isn't quite "itself" (often hard and tasteless) by the time it gets to us.  :-)  Your diary convinces me that it may be worth a try.  I also spied some huge, delicious-looking pomegranates the other day.  Despite my poverty, maybe I need one of each.  ;-)

    -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

    by luckylizard on Sun Dec 04, 2011 at 06:51:48 AM PST

    •  Oh pomegranates always look so pretty, but (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      luckylizard

      that's one fruit I haven't really tried.  It looks like such a lot of work for so little fruit!

      •  It is totally worth it. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lorikeet, Catte Nappe

        One little hint, though:  Don't be wearing anything you care about when you dig in.  The stains can be, um, persistent.  

        I first had them when I was very young.  My ancestors are from the Middle East, so when someone first got their hands on a pomegranate in Iowa, it was a BIG deal.  We savored every little bead.  Now, of course, they're available almost everywhere, but every time I pop it into my mouth, I relive that first experience of wonder at tasting a fruit from my heritage.  Isn't it strange what we remember from childhood?  :-)

        -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

        by luckylizard on Sun Dec 04, 2011 at 09:57:44 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I Have Saijo, Maekawa Jiro, and Fuyu Gaki (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe

    The Jiro ripen before Halloween, the Fuyu Kaki start to ripen around Thanksgiving, and the soft astringent Saijo ripens after Thanksgiving.

    The basic flavor is something like apple and apricot. They are so full of antioxidants and vitamins they have good feel on the tongue.

    The sugar content of the Saijo is unbelievable.  I froze some to eat like popsicles.  In Japan they are air dried and have so much fruit in them that they naturally turn into candied fruit.

    Nothing bothers these tree except for some minor June beetle damage to the leaves of the Fuyu.

    Although persimmons seem to never go bad or get moldy, they will continue to ripen even in the refrigerator, so that limits their commercial use.  

    Also, people are just freaking stupid when it comes to food taboos, and they will not eat a persimmon.  Some marketing person needs to come up with a new name for the fruit.

    There’s always free cheddar in a mousetrap, baby

    by bernardpliers on Sun Dec 04, 2011 at 08:49:05 AM PST

  •  Oriental persimmons (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lorikeet, Catte Nappe

    The Oriental persimmon (Diospyros kaki) is probably the Fruit of Choice of the majority of mankind, given that it has that status in China, Korea, and Japan.  Taken together, the populations of these three countries constitute a large chunk of the world's population, if not more than 50%.
    The Japanese name for this fruit is kaki (with a different stress patern, the same word means "oyster"); most of the varietal names in use around the world are also of Japanese origin: hachiya, fuyu, jiro, etc.
    The Oriental persimmon has been cultivated in the Far East for millenia, and one result of this is the large number of selected (and named) forms, as well as seedless persimmons.  Someone, somewhere, discovered a fruit with no seeds, one which was genetically sterile.  This trait was preserved by grafting.  There are also semi-sterile forms, which explains why you occasionally find a seed in the persimmon.  I collected some fruit in the garden of a friend in Tokyo, and it was FULL of seeds: obviously not the descendant of a carefully selected form!
    Soviet breeders successfully crossed the Oriental and American species, to produce trees with large, sweet fruit which are somewhat hardier than the Oriental parent.  These can be grown in U.S. Zone 6 (-10 F); the pure Oriental persimmon is hardy only in Zone 7 (-0 F) and below.  I can supply a source for the Soviet forms if you will message me here.  
    There is no more beautiful sight than an Oriental persimmon in late fall, the tree laden with large, orange fruit, the leaves already fallen.  I first saw such a tree in southern California over 30 years ago, and that inspired me to try to grow Oriental persimmons in the Denver area.  No success yet, after many tries, even with the hardier Russian forms.  Bummer!  I keep hoping that some plant explorer poking around in the mountains of Korea will find a tree that is super cold hardy.  Not impossible...
    My sister-in-law, now deceased, used to make a persimmon bread (similar to banana bread) which was incomparably delicious.  Any Daily Kos readers happen to have that recipe?

  •  American persimmons are my favorite. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lorikeet, Catte Nappe

    When fully ripe, they are sweeter and have a more intense flavor than the Asian varieties, and thus are better to bake with.  (A lot of wild fruits are more intensely flavored than their domesticated cousins.)  But they have to be fully ripe - my rule of thumb is that they aren't ripe unless they can fall from the tree and go squish.

    I couldn't quite get that idea through to my husband until he decided that the ones still on our tree must be ripe, just not falling.  He picked them off the tree, and laid them out in the sun for a week to 'ripen'.  I made him taste them last night; it was funny to watch.  He took a bite, said "this is pretty good", and then his face slowly screwed up in the classic pucker-grimmace, an he dashed for the sink.  (It takes a few seconds for the astringency to really kick in.)  Lesson learned!

    Anyway, I've loved American persimmons since I was a kid; I have very fond memories of foraging for those little sugar bombs in NC and baking dense, rich, wonderful deserts, like an amazing persimmon nut bread.  Yum!

  •  I thot I'd had persimmons (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lorikeet, Catte Nappe

    But after reading this I see that what I'm thinking of is that fruit where you have to tap the edible seeds out of the housing.

    I've seen the persimmons at the store and now that I know what they are maybe I'll buy one.

  •  my mom used to call me her (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lorikeet

    persimmon monkey.  We'd go along the highway in E TN and spot one and i'd climb up it and shake it, then we'd collect all the persimmons that fell.  Then she would make persimmon bread and pie.  
    I love persimmons!!!!  In Brasil they are called Caqui, a Fuyu type persimmon.

  •  Guess I'll be back at the store this week (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lorikeet

    My menu plan has one meal marked with the TBD of  "some sort of fruit". The market had a sizeable display of persimmons yesterday but I didn't pay any attention to it since I knew I didn't know enough to properly select or prepare any. Thanks to your diary that lack has been remedied.

    from a bright young conservative: “I’m watching my first GOP debate…and WE SOUND LIKE CRAZY PEOPLE!!!!”

    by Catte Nappe on Sun Dec 04, 2011 at 12:19:54 PM PST

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