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Persimmons: Nutrition, Health Benefits, and Varieties

Have you ever had a persimmon? Or is it one of those fruits that you overlook in grocery stores because you don’t know what it is, how it tastes, or how to eat it?

My first experience with persimmons was at my in-laws. My father-in-law brought the fruit home, called Kaka in Arabic. I knew little about it then, and the fruit he offered was way too sweet, too juicy, and gooey. Not too much to my liking, and I made the call that they weren’t a favorite.

Fast-forward, what, 7 or 8 years, and I’m in a local Korean grocery store with 2 hungry kids and a lady sampling persimmons. For some reason, my kids would eat ANYTHING if a store is sampling it. They loved persimmons and kept asking for more and more (a little embarrassing). I tried one and it was delicious. So we brought a bunch home.

Time to learn about persimmons!

It’s important to make a distinction between the two varieties of persimmon; astringent and non-astringent. Here are the differences:

Astringent Non-astingent
Shape and color Heart shaped, green then orange when unripe, deep red when ripe Flat, green when unripe and orange when they soften
Varieties Hachiya, Saijo, Eureka, Tamopan, Tanenashi, Triumph Jiro, Fuyu (Fuyugaki), Imoto, Izu  Maekawajiro, Okugosho, Suruga
Soluble Tannin content High Low
When unripe (due to tannin content) Astringent, inedible Non-astringent, slightly sweet, texture like apple

Aha, the variety my father-in-law loved was astringent, the one that you have to wait until it’s super ripe to eat. We liked a non-astringent.

Astringent variety

Do you see how it has a heart shape?

A non-astringent variety

Do you see their flat shape? --must wash them though!

Don’t eat unripe persimmons:

They have a tannin compound called shibuol, which can react with stomach acids and form gooey gluey structure called a phytobezoar that can obstruct the intestines. But fear them not! You have to eat a lot of unripe persimmons to get that problem.

To ripen the astringent variety, let it sit on your counter for few days. They will be orange to red in color in grocery stores. Ripening happens as the they’re exposed to ethylene gas that’s naturally produced by the fruit. Or, you can store them in a clean box with other ethylene-producing fruits like apples, pears, or bananas. The astringent fruit is ripe and ready to be enjoyed when it turns red and is soft to the point you can easily pluck out the calyx.

As for the non-astringent variety, you don’t have to wait until it’s very ripe because they don’t have a high concentration of tannins. They will be orange in the grocery store, and you can eat them when crunchy–they’ll taste like an apple. They’re sweeter and have a little bit of a jelly texture when they ripen. My kids preferred the apple texture.

You don’t have to peel persimmons. The skin is edible.

Persimmons originated in the East in China and Japan. From there, they migrated to the South Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. In 2005, the top Persimmon producing countries are China, Korea, Japan, Brazil, and Italy.

In Mitchell, Indiana, there’s a yearly persimmon festival and parade in the Fall! Who knew about that?! This past September, it was the 66th Annual festival. Check out the website and video interview with Dymple Green, the lady who started the festival.

Nutrition and Health

A persimmon fruit (2.5 inch diameter) has 120 calories and 6 grams of fiber; both soluble and insoluble. Most of the fiber is in the skin.

Persimmons are an excellent source of inflammation-fighting free-radical scavenging antioxidants:

  • Carotenes: beta-carotene, beta cryptoxanthin, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin. The last 2 are very important for the health of the eye macula and studies show that they delay or prevent age-related macular degeneration
  • Vitamins C and E: they work together to lower oxidative stress
  • Phenols and tannins: epitacatechin, gallic acid, and p-coumaric acid (lowers the risk of stomach cancer). One study found that persimmons have more total poly-phenols and stronger anti atherosclerosis effect than apples

In a study that fed rats a diet that promotes atherosclerosis, eating persimmons slowed down the rise in cholesterol levels and the drop in antioxidant levels.

Persimmons are an excellent source of vitamin B6, folate, and the minerals potassium, copper, and manganese. These are all necessary for metabolic reactions and for enzymes that fight free-radicals.

You can find fresh persimmons only in the fall and winter, but you can enjoy them dried all year long. One study found that dried persimmons are very comparable to fresh ones in their antioxidant content. Hurray!

How to eat them?

Simple. Remove the calyx and cut.

The kids liked them. Zayd (our little guy) is trying to figure out how to make a 'thumbs up' sign--funny!

Tomorrow’s Blog Post: Persimmon Spinach Salad…

Here’s the persimmon spinach salad recipe!

Have you ever had persimmons? What’s your favorite variety? How do you like to eat it?

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Dixya @ Food, Pleasure and Health November 29, 2012, 2:45 pm

    i love persimmons and grew up eating them. However, I did not know their type and nutritional benefits. Thanks for sharing very interesting info. you kids are so adorable 🙂

    • Nour Zibdeh December 3, 2012, 10:04 am

      Thanks Dixya for the comment! I’m glad you found the info interesting. What kind of persimmon did you grow up eating?

  • Enfamama December 1, 2012, 9:51 am

    Oh, the kids are so cute! And nice write-up, by the way! 🙂 Keep it up.

    • Nour Zibdeh December 3, 2012, 10:05 am

      Thank you for the comment 🙂 make sure you subscribe to the blog if you want more!

  • R.A. January 30, 2013, 10:52 am

    Great posting about a very underappreciated fruit. My mother had a family recipe for persimmon pudding that used the heart shaped variety, it is one of my favorite desserts. As my husband is diabetic and I have high cholesterol I have modified the recipe and use olive oil in place of the butter and replaced most of the sugar with Splenda. It is just as delicious and healthier. It was only in the past few years that I tried the other variety of persimmons and now I buy them at the local farmer’s market as long as they are in season. I was fortunate to know a lady that had access to a diferent variety, called chocolate persimmons because of their dark color. These are delicious and have a slightly different flavor. Unfortunately I no longer have access to these and I have asked at the farmer’s market and was told they could not be grown together with the other varieties so none of the vendors sold those.

    • Nour Zibdeh February 5, 2013, 1:12 pm

      Thanks R. A. for the message! I’ve never seen chocolate persimmon–that would be so cool! I bet my kids would love them. I’ve been wanting to try a persimmon pudding recipe. (as a side note, I don’t usually recommend splenda–better to learn to enjoy naturally sweet foods and enjoy foods that don’t taste very sweet in general)

  • Jack October 22, 2013, 3:52 pm

    Thanks for the info! It’s great to see the kids enjoy their persimmons 😀

    I didn’t now there was an astringent variety until 15 minutes ago, when I took a large bite… the mouth feel was quite funny, a little bit comparable to the effect of oxalic acid in rubarb.

    • Nour Zibdeh January 6, 2014, 9:58 am

      Yeap, that’s tannins. Wait until they ripe since as you read, they can cause problems when unripe. My kids like their fruits structured 🙂 mushy and juicy isn’t too appealing 🙂