Happy Seeds of Wisdom Wednesday! We’re seeing more and more persimmons this time of year. While often an undervalued and misunderstood fruit in the U.S., these beauties offer ample health benefits.
The botanical name of persimmons, diospyros kaki, translates to “food of the gods”. As the name would suggest, they have a sweet flavor that is often compared to honey. While persimmons originated in China, they are the national fruit of Japan. In 1856, seeds from these fruits were sent from Japan to the U.S. where they are now grown throughout states in the south and southwest.
Persimmons are known to have over two thousand cultivars, but the Hachiya and Fuyu persimmons are the most popular varieties. Hachiya are heart-shaped and are high in tannins, giving them a more bitter, astringent taste. You would want to let this variety fully ripen, becoming soft and pulpy before you eat it. Once ripened, these persimmons have a creamy texture and are fantastic baked or used in baked goods. The Fuyu variety on the other hand is not astringent and is commonly eaten before peak ripeness. This tomato-like persimmon is usually peeled and eaten raw. The shape, size and color of persimmons varies widely. A persimmon’s weight could vary from a couple ounces to a pound or more. The beautiful color of this fruit could range from a yellow to orange to red.
The ideal growing conditions for persimmons are mild summers and moderate winters. They would ideally be exposed to full sun and air flow but protection from cold wind. The ideal soil type for persimmons is a well-draining loam. Most of the persimmon cultivars do not need pollination and will produce fruits without seeds. However, if pollinated they could produce larger fruit with seeds.
Be mindful when harvesting persimmons as they bruise easily. It is best to harvest the astringent persimmons (Hachiya, Eureka, Honan Red, Saijo, Tamopan, Tanenashi, Triumph) when they are still hard and then allow them to fully ripen at room temperature. The astringent varieties will store well for a month or more in the fridge. Nonastringent persimmons (Fuyu, Gosho, Imoto, Izu, Jiro, Maekawajiro, Okugosho, Suruga) should be harvested once their color has fully developed, but can also gain flavor from softening post-harvest. These will quickly soften if stored in the fridge with other fruit, so it’s best to keep the nonastringent varieties at room temperature where it will last longer.
Persimmons offer a plethora of various nutrients. They contain a handful of vitamins, including A, B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B6, C, E and K. Additionally, they contain a lot of manganese, copper, folate, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and potassium. The plant compounds in persimmons are significant as well, offering carotenoids, flavonoids and tannins.
The leaves of this fruit are also valuable. They contain fiber, tannins and vitamin C and are commonly used to make medicinal teas.
The most notable quality is that one persimmon provides more than half of the vitamin A recommended per day! Vitamin A is essential for healthy eyes, supporting proper function of the cornea and certain membranes. Persimmons also contain B-complex vitamins that offer a specific vision supporting carotenoid – zeaxanthin. The antioxidant properties of zeaxanthin help improve the health of the eyes and prevent issues of degeneration, cataracts, and night blindness.
Additionally, the various B vitamins found in persimmons are heavily relied on for proper metabolic function as well.
As we’ve mentioned before, vitamin C is a vital antioxidant that combats free radical damage in the body, thus reducing inflammation. This also plays into supporting the immune system. Persimmons are loaded with vitamin C, providing 20% of the daily amount one needs.
High amounts of manganese in persimmon are an excellent benefit to your health, as manganese supports healthy skin and mucous membranes. It also helps reduce cancer risk for the lungs and mouth. The anti-cancer property of persimmons is also due to their contents of betulinic acid and gallocatechins – antioxidants that impede the growth of tumors. A specific flavonoid – fisetin – is especially high in persimmons and has been shown to destroy breast cancer cells as well has help eliminate cancer cells in the colon and prostate.
Quercetin and kaempferol, the flavonoid antioxidants in persimmons, are shown to help prevent heart disease as well as lower blood pressure. The tannins of persimmons also contribute to lowering blood pressure.
The potassium content of persimmons is quite significant. We’ve mentioned potassium many times, and its vasodilator effect. It lowers blood pressure and thus increases the flow of blood throughout the body. This reduced stress on the cardiovascular system helps prevent heart issues and disease.
While persimmons have been shown to help lower blood pressure, they can be dangerous to consume if you experience hypotension.
Persimmons are rich in copper, which promotes the production of red blood cells in the body and thus supports healthy blood circulation. This increase in red blood cells will help improve energy levels and muscle tone, as well as support cognitive function, healthy metabolism, and wound healing.
Persimmons can help reduce premature aging in the body thanks to beta-carotene, vitamin A, cryptoxanthin, lutein and lycopene. These important vitamins and minerals help combat the oxidative damage and stress that usually results in wrinkles and age spots. Additionally, studies are looking into the peel of a persimmon and a specific polyphenol that is proving quite powerful in combatting oxidative damage.
Persimmons are best when fully ripened, with soft flesh and pulpy insides. They are often eaten raw, dried, as well as broiled, baked and roasted. There are plenty of great recipes out there to play around with including more health promoting persimmons in your daily meals!
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- California Rare Fruit Growers Inc. - Persimmon
- Food Facts Presented by Mercola - What Are Persimmons Good For?
- Healthline - Top 7 Health and Nutrition Benefits of Persimmon by Jillian Kubala, MS, RD
- Organic Facts - 8 Amazing Benefits of Persimmons by John Staughton (BASc, BFA)