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It’s easy to sing the praises of fresh produce when the weather is warm and farmers markets and roadside stands are bursting with vibrant edibles in every color of the rainbow, but when winter rolls around, the food selection can seem as dreary as the weather.
Nothing could be further from the truth! I’m fortunate enough to live in an area with a year-round market and several grocery stores with ample supplies of locally grown produce, and I can tell you firsthand that winter veggies and fruits are just as exciting and delicious as what you find at peak times during spring and summer. This is the first in a five-part series on winter fruits and veggies I’ll be posting from now through February to offer insight into the delicious (and healthy!) foods winter has to offer and inspiration for adding them to your meals.
Today I’m focusing on persimmons! Quite possibly my favorite quirky fruit, these little orange oddities pop up in co-ops and at well-stocked grocery stores when other juicy delights like peaches have long since disappeared.
Out of the 2,000 cultivated varieties of persimmons, only two are commercially available: Hachiya and Fuyu.
Hachiya persimmons look somewhat like large orange acorns. Fuyus are more squat, like flattened tomatoes, and both varieties sport a “hat” of hard, dry leaves. The fruit originated in China and was brought to Canada in the 19th century. Today, it appears in stores from late fall through December. It’s a short window of time, so grab them while you can!
An abundance of natural sugars gives persimmons a sweet, almost candy-like flavor when ripe, so they can satisfy a sweet tooth in place of unhealthy processed sugars.
Health Benefits of Persimmons
In addition to zapping your craving for sweets, persimmons have a variety of other health benefits:
- Good source of the precursors to vitamin A
- Good source of trace minerals, including copper and manganese
- 6 grams of dietary fiber in a 168-gram fruit — that’s twice the fiber of apples! — to promote a diverse gut microbiome
- 80 percent of the daily recommended vitamin C intake in an average fruit, which can boost immunity, support healthy connective tissue and aid in natural detoxification
- Contains phenols that exhibit protective effects against cancer, anti-tumor properties and benefits for heart health
- Contains carotenes, including zeaxanthin, an important phytonutrient for eye health
At 70 calories in 100 grams, persimmons are a little more calorie-dense than other fruits. But don’t let that dissuade you. With all of their health benefits, you can be sure you’re getting plenty of nutrients in every bite!
One word of caution: consuming unripe persimmons may lead to the formation of a bezoar, a “food ball” created when the tannins in the fruit cause other food fibers to stick together. Small bezoars pass on their own, but large formations have the potential to be obstructive. Fortunately, persimmons taste so bad when they’re not ripe, you won’t want to eat one. The feeling is sometimes described as “fuzzy” or having all the moisture sucked out of your mouth.
Selecting and Preparing Persimmons
You can bypass the bezoar problem and avoid a nasty surprise by looking for persimmons that are soft to the touch. Fuyus generally have a firmer texture than Hachiyas, but both varieties should have a little “give” before you consider eating them. Most persimmons in the U.S. are grown in California, with the season peaking around November. If you’re far from the West Coast and find mainly unripe persimmons at the store, place the fruit in a brown paper bag with an apple or banana to facilitate ripening.
The perfect persimmons are “bright and plump and feel heavy for their size. They should have glossy looking skin without any cracks or bruises.” I’ve noticed this when shopping for them myself. A ripe persimmon seems oddly dense, and this characteristic is also noticeable when you slice or bite into the fruit. Fuyus can be eaten like apples with little preparation aside from washing and removing the tough leaves. Since the Hachiya variety tends to be softer, it’s best to slice them in half and use a spoon to scoop out the inside.
Persimmons are also great ingredients and garnishes! Put them in smoothies, on oatmeal or in salads to add a bright, sweet flavor, or roast Fuyus for a unique snack. Hachiyas are generally considered to be better for baking and cooking. These recipes give you a chance to try both varieties:
- Fuyu Spice Healthy Oatmeal from Healthy. Happy. Life.
- Winter Persimmon and Avocado Salad from Crumb
- Persimmon Fennel Pomegranate Salad from Feasting at Home — Replace the honey with maple syrup and omit the feta to make it vegan (or use vegan feta!)
- Mini Persimmon Coffee Cakes from Vegan Yak Attack
- Persimmon Bread from Fat Free Vegan
Are you a fan of persimmons? Share your favorite ways to eat them in the comments!