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Have You Tasted A Persimmon?

By Diana Wind (windNovember 6, 2012
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Move over apples, pears and grapes; make room for persimmons. Have you and your family ever tasted a persimmon? My family just did. Now they want to know if we can grow our own persimmon tree! Discover the flavor and good nutrition of persimmons. They can be fresh picked from your own tree or found at your local food markets from October through the New Year.

Gardening picture

Make Room in your Diet for Nutritious Persimmons

Persimmon fruit grows on 30 to 40-foot tall deciduous trees hardy to USDA zones 5a to 9b, as well as subtropical and tropical climates (height and hardiness will vary depending on the cultivar). Drought tolerant Persimmon trees prefer full sun. The seasonal fruits begin maturing in many backyards every fall in October. From November through the New Year, look for persimmons for sale at your local grocery stores.

Here at our home, we may not have room for another tree, but we will surely make room in our kitchen for fresh persimmons. Persimmons are juicy, sweet and delicious. They add subtle sweet flavor to entrees, side dishes, fruit smoothies, breads, desserts and sauces. I've been keeping the ripe persimmons in the fridge and using them one by one in our daily recipes.

One of our favorite ways to enjoy persimmons has been to chop and add one to organic, whole grain Quinoa. We plan to make a stevia-sweetened Korean Persimmon Fruit Punch, Sujeonggwa, for New Year's - made by simmering persimmons with ginger, cinnamon and optional peppercorns. You can add persimmon nutrition to just about any recipe. Soft Hachiya and American Persimmons taste best when added chopped to recipes. The firm, more crisp, Fuyu persimmons can be eaten whole or added atop low fat yogurt or in fruit salads.

Persimmon FlavHachiya Persimmonor

When I asked people who have eaten persimmons before what they described their taste like, many said they thought the fruit tasted like tomatoes. This was interesting, since persimmons do resemble tomatoes in color and shape. Perhaps our sight influences our perception of flavor? For me and my family, we found the flavor of ripe persimmons fruity and sweet - nothing even close to a tomato in flavor. Some say persimmon's sweet flavor reminds them of dates.

Persimmon Varieties
Over a thousand Persimmon cultivars exist, some native and many from the Orient, also known as Japanese persimmons or Kaki. American native
Diospyros virginiana are also known as common persimmon, Eastern Persimmon, or Date Plum trees.

American persimmon Diospyros virginiana cultivars include: Craggs, Early Golden, Florence, Garretson, John Rick, Meader, Wabash, Morris Burton, Ruby and Reich.

Oriental persimmons are grafted to American persimmon root stock. According to an overview of Persimmon cultivars by Charles A. Brun, Ph.D. Horticulture Crops Advisor of Washington State University, early varieties include 'Izu'. Mid-season varieties include 'Jiro' and 'Hana Fuyu'. And, late-season varieties include 'Fuyu' and 'Sagura'. Dr. Brun reported all of these cultivars are gaining prominence in Italy.

Persimmons fall into two main categories: astringent or non-astringent.

  • Astringent PersimmonsPersimmon varieties (tomatoes in background)
Astringent fruits have a bitter flavor from high tannin content; when they are allowed to fully ripen and soft, the taste becomes pleasantly sweet. Astringent persimmons include the small, plum-tomato-sized American Persimmons and some of the larger Japanese Persimmons, including: Diospyros kaki 'Tamopan' and Hachiya Diospyros kaki 'Hachiya'.

Hachiya can be up to 4-inches long with an acorn-like point at the tapering end. Their flesh is jelly-like and juicy when ripe. Ready-to-eat fruits are squishy and soft. Some produce companies describe ripe Hachiya fruit as feeling like a water balloon, and that's exactly what they feel like!

"Don't eat it if it isn't ripe!" warns Ginni, a neighbor of a South Jersey Italian family who grows figs and persimmons in their backyard. She confirmed what I had read about the unripe fruit being inedible and very astringent. 

  • Non-astringent Persimmons
'Fuyu', 'Jiro', 'Gosho' and 'Suruga' are among the non-astringent persimmon cultivars. According to the California Fuyu Growers Association, the Fuyu Persimmon originated in China. Asian immigrants have increased the demand for Fuyu. Diospyros kaki 'Fuyu', also known as fuyugaki, were brought to the U.S. in the early part of the 21st century. Fuyu persimmon fruit is squatty and round in shape, and tastes mildly sweet and crunchy. Fuyu can be eaten like an apple, which is very different from the sweet, soft Hachiya persimmon.

 Persimmon Nutrition

All types of Persimmons are fat free, a good source of Copper, and an excellent source of dietary Fiber, Manganese and Vitamin C. Bright, yellow-orange colors hint that they are also an excellent source of Vitamin A and carotenoids. Persimmons provide beta carotene and antioxidants, such as lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids that may prevent and help ocular (eye) diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. 

Japanese Persimmon fruit: one raw fruit 168g (2 ½-inch diameter): Calories: 118; Carbohydrate: 31 (2 carb exchanges); dietary Fiber: 6g (24%DV); Potassium: 270 mg (8% DV); Sodium: 2 mg (0% DV); Copper: 0.19 mg (10% DV); Manganese: 0.596 mg (30% DV); Vitamin C 12.6 mg (21% DV); Vitamin B6: 0.168 mg (8% DV); beta Carotene: 425 mcg; Vitamin A 2733 IU (55% DV WOW!); Vitamin K: 4.4 mcg (5.5% DV); phytosterols 7 mg; Lutein + zeaxanthin: 1401 mcg

Percent Daily Values (%DV) are based on a caloric intake of 2,000 calories for adults and children age 4 or older.


Photos Copyright ©2012 Wind. All rights reserved. Nutrition data calculated by Diana Wind, RD using USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 25.

Related Dave's Garden Article

The American and Asian Persimmons - Pucker Up for the Fruit of the Gods By Memory Russell

Other Related Links

Persimmon Fact Sheet

Japanese Persimmon

A Persimmon A Day Could Be Better For Your Heart Than An Apple

Top 10 Ways to Enjoy Persimmons

Persimmons Cultivar Overview

Fuyu Persimmon Bundt Cake


  About Diana Wind  
Diana WindDiana is a registered dietitian nutritionist with a passion for gardening and sustainable foods. She is a graduate of the Academy of Culinary Arts and member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Food from the garden fuels her enthusiasm for eating right and nutritional science. She especially loves gardening as part of a healthy lifestyle. Gardening engages us with nature, gives us health benefits from exercise, and rewards us with fresh, nutritious foods. To assess your food and garden activity level, visit choosemyplate.gov or her blog. You can also follow Diana on Google.

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Discussion about this article:
SubjectTopic StarterRepliesViewsLast Post
persimmon cake maggiemudpie 5 33 Nov 16, 2012 8:37 AM
persimmons reil 1 13 Nov 12, 2012 4:56 PM
Never knew... womanonamission 1 15 Nov 12, 2012 4:47 PM
Persimmons wren107 2 26 Nov 7, 2012 4:18 AM
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