Aside from cranberries, citrus and pomegranates, winter’s hardly the time we associate with feasting on delicious fresh fruit. Imagine my delight, then, when this fall I discovered my newest passion: persimmons. The fuzzy type. Yes, I’d heard of them before. But not till this year did I actually try one. I bought it and I parked it on my counter. I let ripen. The persimmon, when properly ripe, actually looks overripe, and feels extremely soft to the touch. I thought perhaps I’d let it go too far. But…Mmmm…like the best Scottish marmalade you ever tasted.
A Grown-Up Fruit
The persimmon is an adult fruit. A grownup fruit. Far from the simple, sweet taste of, say, the common supermarket Red Delicious strain of apple, the persimmon offers a flavor that’s rich, complex, even a little dark—rather in the way that an apricot is a little ‘darker’ than a peach. And truly, rivetingly delicious.
My favorite way to eat them: I prepare a nut cheese and then place pieces of a ripe persimmon on top. And, right now, persimmons are also my favorite green smoothie addition.
Origin of Persimmons
The persimmon is a delicate oriental fruit native to China where it’s wildly popular and known as Shizi. It spread to Japan and in the nineteenth century, fortunately for us, it was introduced to California. The fruit comes from a species of tree in the genus Diospyros—fittingly, from the Greek meaning ‘food of the gods.’ The deciduous persimmon tree grows about 25 feet high, with the genus offering two categories of species: those bearing astringent fruits and those bearing non-astringent fruits.
Astringent (Hachiya) and Non-Astringent (Fuyu)
The astringent fruits must ripen fully in order to be sweet, velvety and enjoyable—otherwise they can tend to be bitter and dry. Eat an under-ripe persimmon and you’ll you know it: Your mouth will feel dry and pucker, thanks to the tannins in the unripe fruit. Non-astringent varieties, by contrast, are crisp like an apple when ripe. The two most popular brands are the Hachiya, an astringent variety best enjoyed when allowed to ripen to jelly-like softness, and the Fuyu, a non-astringent variety eaten like a sweet apple. It was the former type Hachiya that I discovered for myself this fall.
Amazing things, persimmons! They’re fabulous examples of the principle that raw food in general, fruits in particular, are living foods: They ripe and change (from very hard to very soft, from making your mouth feel fuzzy to deliciously salivating!) merely by sitting on your kitchen counter. The enzymes within the fruit are still alive, and you can literally watch them at work day by day. It’s the same when you flood your body with raw and living foods—the effects are tangible.
Persimmons come to you loaded with Vitamin C and antioxidants (offering strong protection against damaging and aging free radicals). High in fiber, low in calories, they contain several minerals and most of the B-complex vitamins. They also offer betulinic acid, best known as an anti-tumor compound, as well as catechins, which are anti-inflammatory and help prevent unwanted bleeding from small blood vessels. Catechins would be an added bonus for those wanting to prevent spider veins and broken capillaries during the winter time when sensitive skin incurs damage from the cold and dry weather.
There’s a bit of a trick to buying and getting the best flavor from your Hachiya persimmons. Look for those with bright orange skin and a firm texture. These will ripen on the counter to a jelly-like consistency, the calyx will be easy to pluck out, and the skins may even start to crack, but once ripe they must be peeled and eaten in a day or two. You will have no trouble with that, however, if you include persimmons in recipes like these…
Fruit Salad Deluxe
3 large ripe persimmons, diced
3 Golden delicious apples, cored and diced
2 cups red grapes
1 sliced banana
2 ripe kiwis, peeled and sliced into rounds
1 cup soaked and drained pecans or walnuts
1 cup fresh cranberries, finely chopped
Mix all ingredients together in a colorful serving bowl and sprinkle with cinnamon.
Gorgeous holiday indulgence
½ cup pecans, soaked and rinsed
½ cup almonds, soaked and rinsed
2 fresh medjool dates, or 2 Tablespoons raw honey
½ inch vanilla bean, soaked, or 1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ to ½ cup of young coconut water
¼ cup of fresh coconut meat
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of Celtic sea salt
Pulse all ingredients in your food processor until crumbly and moist, only adding coconut water as needed for consistency. Press into a glass pie plate. Then fill the crust with the following:
5 very ripe persimmons, peeled
1 ripe avocado, peeled and pitted
1 ripe banana
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
Blend thoroughly in food processor or Vita-Mix until smooth and creamy. Pour immediately into crust and refrigerate until ready to serve. Garnish with fresh persimmon slices in a pinwheel pattern across the top.