Among persimmons, the Fuyu variety has been most heavily researched for its nutritional compounds, and the findings show that this autumn gem is a great addition to a healthy diet.
Fuyu persimmons contain a variety of nutrients including carotenoids lycopene, beta-carotene, and lutein, which are currently being studied in animals for their potential protective effects against cancer progression and development. They also contain phytonutrients such as betulinic acid, which is currently being researched in cell studies for its anti-tumor properties.
Though the heart-shaped Hachiya persimmon — the other widely available variety — has not been researched as thoroughly, its bright-orange hue indicates the presence of beneficial beta-carotene and lycopene compounds. It is important to note that this research is still in its early stages and we cannot apply it to humans at this time.
While the research is unable to highlight direct links or specific recommendations, it is exciting to acknowledge the work being done in the field to unlock potential future agents to slow or inhibit the growth of cancerous cells. This research highlights the importance of including a wide variety of plant foods with an abundance of phytonutrients in our diet in hopes of providing the best protection against the development of cancer and other chronic diseases.
The Fuyu provides ample vitamin A and C and contains 30% of your daily manganese — all of which help to support the immune system and protect cells from free-radical damage. The Fuyu is also a good source of dietary fiber, which supports healthy digestion and helps to maintain a healthy colon.
Persimmons are at their best in November. Hachiya persimmons contain high levels of tannins before they ripen and are highly bitter until they are soft and ripe. Eat them too soon and they will take all the moisture from your mouth, coating your mouth with a chalky film and causing it to pucker.
The Fuyu varietal does not have this problem and is edible before being completely ripe. In fact, it is best eaten while firm, with a little give, but before being completely soft.
When choosing persimmons look for smooth, orange skin with red undertones. They should be plump with no bruises. Ripe persimmons should be eaten right away. If they are not ripe, placing them in a brown paper bag on your counter for a few days can speed up the process.
Persimmons are quite sweet and can be used in place of strawberries in our Super Simple Sorbet. Try making a persimmon glaze to top duck or other poultry, or experiment with persimmon cookies, cake, and pudding for the holidays. Or eat the fruit raw.
If it’s a Hachiya, cut away the stem and scoop out its delicious insides with a teaspoon. If it’s a Fuyu, eat the fruit whole with the skin on like an apple, or slice it on top of oatmeal.
If you’re near an Asian grocery, you may find whole dried persimmons in the refrigerated and frozen section around autumn. These can be eaten as is or used in a spiced, cooling drinks typically made around Lunar New Year.