The persimmon // (sometimes spelled persimon) is the edible fruit of a number of species of trees in the genus Diospyros. Diospyros is in the family Ebenaceae, and other members of the genus are grown for ebony timber. The most widely cultivated species is the Oriental or Japanese persimmon, Diospyros kaki. In color, the ripe fruit of the cultivated strains range from light yellow-orange to dark red-orange depending on the species and variety. They similarly vary in size from 1.5 to 9 cm (0.59 to 3.54 in) in diameter, and in shape the varieties may be spherical, acorn-, or pumpkin-shaped. The calyx generally remains attached to the fruit after harvesting, but becomes easy to remove once the fruit is ripe. The ripe fruit has a high glucose content. The protein content is low, but it has a balanced protein profile. Persimmon fruits have been put to various medicinal and chemical uses.
Names and etymology
The word Diospyros comes from the ancient Greek words "dios" (δῐος) and "pyron" (πῡρον). A popular etymology construed this as "divine fruit", or as meaning "wheat of Zeus" or "God's pear" and "Jove's fire". The dio-, as shown by the short vowel 'i' has nothing to do with 'divine' (δῑoς ), dio- being an affix attached to plant names, and in classical Greek the compound referred to 'the fruit of the nettle tree'. The Modern Greek name for the fruit is λωτός (lotos), which leads modern Greeks to the assumption that this is the lotus referred to in Homer's Odyssey.
While there are many species of Diospyros that bear fruit inedible to humans, the following are those that bear edible fruit:
Diospyros kaki (Asian persimmon, Japanese persimmon)
Asian or Japanese persimmon (Diospyros kaki) is native to Japan, China, Korea, Burma and Nepal. It is deciduous, with broad, stiff leaves, and is known as the shizi (柿子 in Chinese), and also as the Japanese Persimmon or kaki (柿) in Japanese. It is the most widely cultivated species. Its fruits are sweet and slightly tangy with a soft to occasionally fibrous texture. Cultivation of the fruit extended first to other parts of east Asia, India and Nepal and was later introduced to California and southern Europe in the 1800s and to Brazil in the 1890s, and numerous cultivars have been selected. It is edible in its crisp, firm state but has its best flavor when allowed to rest and soften slightly after harvest. The Japanese cultivar 'Hachiya' is widely grown. The fruit has a high tannin content, which makes the unripe fruit astringent and bitter. The tannin levels are reduced as the fruit matures. Persimmons like 'Hachiya' must be completely ripened before consumption. When ripe, this fruit comprises thick, pulpy jelly encased in a waxy thin-skinned shell.
"Sharon fruit" (named after the Sharon plain in Israel) is the marketing name for the Israeli-bred cultivar 'Triumph'. As with all pollination-variant-astringent persimmons, the fruit are ripened off the tree by exposing them to carbon dioxide. The "sharon fruit" has no core, is seedless and particularly sweet, and can be eaten whole.
Diospyros lotus (date-plum)
Date-plum (Diospyros lotus), also known as lotus persimmon, is native to southwest Asia and southeast Europe. It was known to the ancient Greeks as "the fruit of the gods" and often referred to as "nature's candy", i.e., Dio spyros (literally "two seeds"), hence the scientific name of the genus. Its English name probably derives from Persian Khormaloo خرمالو literally "date-plum", referring to the taste of this fruit, which is reminiscent of both plums and dates.
Diospyros virginiana (American persimmon)
American persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) is native to the eastern United States. Its fruit is traditionally eaten in a special steamed pudding in the Midwest, and sometimes its timber is used as a substitute for ebony (e.g., in instruments).
Diospyros digyna (black persimmon)
Diospyros peregrina (Indian persimmon)
Indian persimmon (Diospyros peregrina) is a slow-growing tree, native to coastal West Bengal. The fruit is green and turns yellow when ripe. It is relatively small with an unremarkable flavor and is better known for uses in folk medicine rather than culinary applications.
Diospyros texana (Texas persimmon)
Texas persimmon (Diospyros texana) is native to central and west Texas and southwest Oklahoma in the United States, and eastern Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas in northeastern Mexico. The fruit of D. texana are black on the outside (as opposed to just on the inside as with the Mexican persimmon) subglobose berries with a diameter of 1.5–2.5 cm (0.59–0.98 in) ripen in August. The fleshy berries become edible when they turn dark purple or black, at which point they are sweet and can be eaten from the hand or made into pudding or custard.
Commercially and in general, there are two types of persimmon fruit: astringent and non-astringent.
The heart-shaped Hachiya is the most common variety of astringent persimmon. Astringent persimmons contain very high levels of soluble tannins and are unpalatable if eaten before completely softened. However, the sweet, delicate flavor of fully ripened persimmons of varieties that are astringent when unripe is particularly relished. The astringency of tannins is removed in various ways. Examples include ripening by exposure to light for several days and wrapping the fruit in paper (probably because this increases the ethylene concentration of the surrounding air). Ethylene ripening can be increased in reliability and evenness, and the process can be greatly accelerated by adding ethylene gas to the atmosphere in which the fruit is stored. For domestic purposes, the most convenient and effective process is to store the ripening persimmons in a clean, dry container together with other varieties of fruit that give off particularly large quantities of ethylene while they are ripening; apples and related fruits such as pears are effective, and so are bananas and several others. Other chemicals are used commercially in artificially ripening persimmons or delaying their ripening. Examples include alcohol and carbon dioxide, which change tannin into the insoluble form. Such bletting processes sometimes are jump-started by exposing the fruit to cold or frost. The resultant cell damage stimulates the release of ethylene, which promotes cellular wall breakdown.
Astringent varieties of persimmons also can be prepared for commercial purposes by drying. Tanenashi fruit will occasionally contain a seed or two, which can be planted and will yield a larger, more vertical tree than when merely grafted onto the D. virginiana rootstock most commonly used in the U.S. Such seedling trees may produce fruit that bears more seeds, usually 6 to 8 per fruit, and the fruit itself may vary slightly from the parent tree. Seedlings are said to be more susceptible to root nematodes.
The non-astringent persimmon is squat like a tomato and is most commonly sold as fuyu. Non-astringent persimmons are not actually free of tannins as the term suggests but rather are far less astringent before ripening and lose more of their tannic quality sooner. Non-astringent persimmons may be consumed when still very firm and remain edible when very soft.
There is a third type, less commonly available, the pollination-variant non-astringent persimmons. When fully pollinated, the flesh of these fruit is brown inside—known as goma in Japan—and the fruit can be eaten when firm. These varieties are highly sought after and can be found at specialty markets or farmers markets only. Tsurunoko, sold as "chocolate persimmon" for its dark brown flesh, Maru, sold as "cinnamon persimmon" for its spicy flavor, and Hyakume, sold as "brown sugar", are the three best known.
Before ripening, persimmons usually have a "chalky" or bitter taste.
|Persimmon production – 2013|
|Country||Production (millions of tonnes)|
|Republic of Korea|| |
| || |
In 2013, world production of persimmons was 4.6 million tonnes, with China accounting for 43% of this total (table). Other major producers include the Republic of Korea, Japan, Brazil and Azerbaijan (table).
Persimmons are eaten fresh, dried, raw, or cooked. When eaten fresh, they are usually eaten whole like an apple in bite-size slices, and may be peeled. One way to consume ripe persimmons, which may have soft texture, is to remove the top leaf with a paring knife and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Riper persimmons can also be eaten by removing the top leaf, breaking the fruit in half, and eating from the inside out. The flesh ranges from firm to mushy, and the texture is unique. The flesh is sweet and, when firm owing to being unripe, possesses an apple-like crunch. American persimmons (Diospyros virginiana) and Diospyros digyna are completely inedible until they are fully ripe.
In China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam, 'Hachiya' persimmons after harvesting are prepared using traditional hand-drying techniques outdoors for two to three weeks. The fruit is then further dried by exposure to heat over several days before being shipped to market. In Japan, the dried fruit is called hoshigaki, in China "shìbǐng", in Korea gotgam (hangul), and in Vietnam hồng khô. It is eaten as a snack or dessert and used for other culinary purposes.
In Taiwan, fruits of astringent varieties are sealed in jars filled with limewater to get rid of bitterness. Slightly hardened in the process, they are sold under the name "crisp persimmon" (cuishi) or "water persimmon" (shuishizi). Preparation time is dependent upon temperature (5 to 7 days at 25–28 °C (77–82 °F)).
For centuries, Japanese have consumed persimmon leaf tea (Kaki-No-Ha Cha) made from the dried leaves of "kaki" persimmons (Diospyros kaki). In some areas of Manchuria and Korea, the dried leaves of the fruit are used for making tea. The Korean name for this tea is ghamnip cha.
In the Old Northwest of the United States, persimmons are harvested and used in a variety of dessert dishes, most notably pies. They can be used in cookies, cakes, puddings, salads, curries and as a topping for breakfast cereal. Persimmon pudding is a baked dessert made with fresh persimmons that has the consistency of pumpkin pie but resembles a brownie and is almost always topped with whipped cream. An annual persimmon festival, featuring a persimmon pudding contest, is held every September in Mitchell, Indiana.
Persimmons may be stored at room temperature 20 °C (68 °F) where they will continue to ripen. In northern China, unripe persimmons are frozen outside during winter to speed up the ripening process.
Peeled, flattened, and dried persimmons (shìbǐng) in a Xi'an market
Kaki preserved in limewater
Hoshigaki, Japanese dried persimmon
Nutrient and phytochemical content
Compared to apples, persimmons have higher levels of dietary fiber and some dietary minerals, but overall are not a significant source of nutrients except for manganese (17% of the Daily Value, DV) and provitamin A beta-carotene (10% DV, table for raw Japanese persimmons per 100 gram amount). In a 100 gram amount, raw American persimmons are a rich source of vitamin C (80% DV) and iron (19% DV, table).
Unripened persimmons and bezoars
Unripened persimmons contain the soluble tannin shibuol, which, upon contact with a weak acid, polymerizes in the stomach and forms a gluey coagulum, a "foodball" or phytobezoar, that can affix with other stomach matter. These phytobezoars are often very hard and almost woody in consistency. More than 85% of phytobezoars are caused by ingestion of unripened persimmons.
Persimmon bezoars (diospyrobezoars) often occur in epidemics in regions where the fruit is grown. Diospyrobezoars should not be of concern when consuming moderate quantities of persimmons. One case in medical literature from 2004 revealed a 51-year-old patient who had eaten a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of unpeeled persimmons each day for 40 years. Surgery is sometimes employed, but Coca-Cola also has been used successfully to chemically shrink or eliminate persimmon-related bezoars.
Horses may develop a taste for the fruit growing on a tree in their pasture and overindulge also, making them quite ill.
Though persimmon trees belong to the same genus as ebony trees, persimmon tree wood has a limited use in the manufacture of objects requiring hard wood. It is hard, but cracks easily and is somewhat difficult to process. Persimmon wood is used for paneling in traditional Korean and Japanese furniture.
In North America, the lightly colored, fine-grained wood of D. virginiana is used to manufacture billiard cues and textile shuttles. It is also used in the percussion field to produce the shaft of some mallets and drumsticks. Persimmon wood was also heavily used in making the highest-quality heads of the golf clubs known as "woods" until the golf industry moved primarily to metal woods in the last years of the 20th century. In fact, the first metal woods made by TaylorMade, an early pioneer of that club type, were branded as "Pittsburgh Persimmons". Persimmon woods are still made, but in far lower numbers than in past decades. Over the last few decades persimmon wood has become popular among bow craftsmen, especially in the making of traditional longbows. Persimmon wood is used in making a small number of wooden flutes and eating utensils such as wooden spoons and cornbread knives (wooden knives that may cut through the bread without scarring the dish).
Like some other plants of the genus Diospyros, older persimmon heartwood is black or dark brown in color, in stark contrast to the sapwood and younger heartwood, which is pale in color.
The trees of all species have stiff, tumescent leaves, but the female of the D. virginiana can look less turgid than the male because the leaves droop when fruiting, perhaps because of the heavier nutrient requirements. They grow swiftly, and are resilient to the stresses of unpredictable climates. Persimmons can tolerate and adapt to a wide range of climates. Persimmons are also known for their resistance to diseases and pests. They are one of the last trees to leaf out in the spring, and do not flower until well after the leaves have formed, bypassing the threat of blossom loss to frosts. The fruit hangs on the branches long into the winter. Because they grow swiftly and colonize off their root systems, they are ideal for helping recover habitat. A persimmon tree will be mature enough to bear fruit within 7–8 years. They hold their own against flooding riverbanks quite well and are listed in Stormwater Journal's list of water-holding trees.
- In Ozark folklore, the severity of the upcoming winter is said to be predictable by slicing a persimmon seed and observing the cutlery-shaped formation within it.
- In Korean folklore the dried persimmon (gotgam, Korean: 곶감) has a reputation for scaring away tigers.
Persimmon orchard northern Kansai region, Japan.
Hachiya persimmons in December
Japanese persimmons hung to dry after fall harvest
Their red color and cracking skins show which persimmons are ripe. The yellow fruit are nearly ripe and will ripen, especially if exposed to ethylene.
Comparison of hachiya cultivar and jiro cultivar kaki persimmon size.
Peeled, hanging Hachiya Persimmons in Southern California.
Persimmon cut open.
Japanese persimmon (cultivar 'Hachiya') - watercolor 1887
Kaki fruit (Japanese persimmon)
A branch heavily laden with persimmons
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- The persimmon was first introduced to the State of São Paulo, afterwards expanding across Brazil through Japanese immigration; State of São Paulo is still the greatest producer, with an area of 3,610 hectares dedicated to persimmon culture in 2003; cf. todafruta.com.br
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- Quintal-Novelo, C.; Moo-Puc, R. E.; Chale-Dzul, J.; Cáceres-Farfán, M.; Mendez-Gonzalez, M.; Borges-Argáez, R. (2012). "Cytotoxic constituents from the stem bark of Diospyros cuneata". Natural Product Research. 27 (17): 1594–7. doi:10.1080/14786419.2012.738201. PMID 23098219.
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- Delia, C. W. (1961). "Phytobezoars (diospyrobezoars). A clinicopathologic correlation and review of six cases". Arch Surg. 82 (4): 579–583. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1961.01300100093010.
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- Merck Manual, Rahway, New Jersey, Sixteenth Edition, Gastrointestinal Disorders, Section 52, page 780
- "Bezoars, Phytobezoars and Diospyrobezoars, OH MY!! Diospyros virginiana - common persimmons". Persimmonpudding.com. Retrieved 2013-07-31.
- Altinli, E.; Saribeyoglu, K.; Uras, C. (2004). "Laparoscopic extirpation of a large gastric diospyrobezoar". Case Rep Clin Pract Rev. 5: 503–505.
- Hayashi, Kazuki; Ohara, Hirotaka; Naitoh, Itaru; Okumura, Fumihiro; Andoh, Tomoaki; Itoh, Takafumi; Nakazawa, Takahiro; Joh, Takashi (November 12, 2008). "Persimmon bezoar successfully treated by oral intake of Coca-Cola: a case report". Cases Journal. London, England, U.K.: BioMed Central (published December 11, 2008). 1: 385. doi:10.1186/1757-1626-1-385. ISSN 1757-1626. OCLC 234326274. Retrieved October 24, 2012.
Referring to past reports [1-9], the period from the administration of Coca-Cola until the disappearance of the bezoars was a minimum of 1 day and a maximum of 2 months.
- Damrosch, Barbara (2004-11-25). "East Meets West in a Fall Fruit". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-12-02.
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