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Posted by Dr. Ben Kim on Dec 15, 2015
This might sound a little funny, but persimmons have long held a special place in my heart. As a young boy, I remember my parents picking up a case of heart-shaped Hachiya persimmons from the Korean grocery store in Toronto every winter just before Christmas. We'd gently check them every morning to see if one had ripened enough to eat. It was a true test of patience because if they weren't ripe enough, halfway down the fruit toward its stem, the flesh would make your lips and mouth pucker from its astringency, caused by a high concentration of tannins. Though I didn't understand the science of it as a child, waiting for full ripening meant allowing the naturally occurring tannins to become inert, leaving incredibly sweet and tender fruit.
As a teenager, I discovered non-astringent Fuyu persimmons that were always ready to eat straight out of the box. Fuyu persimmons have the same lovely sweetness and flavour that Hachiyas are known for, but their texture is like a cross between an apple and a pear.
All varieties of persimmon are rich in cancer-fighting carotenoids. They're also naturally abundant in manganese, vitamin B-6, vitamin C, and fiber. They provide about the same number of calories as most varieties of apple and pear, but per ounce, persimmons are far more nutrient-dense, mostly due to their carotenoids.
If you grow to love persimmons and can gobble them up by the case, you'll want to find a local Korean grocery store, which is almost guaranteed to carry them in bulk whenever they're in season - in North America, this is usually from November to early January.
Some Asian food markets offer dried persimmons year-round - these are typically the Fuyu variety, and while they are incredibly delicious, you should know that today, dried persimmons are mostly sprayed with anti-fungal chemicals while they are dried.
Here's a look at the trailer for a lovely documentary on small village farmers in Japan who spend their days harvesting Fuyu persimmons and transforming them into dried persimmons for markets all around the world:
Addendum on December 15, 2015 - a look at a new crop of organically grown Hachiya persimmons from early December of 2015:
Simple fruit and greens salad made with baby organic greens, Fuyu persimmons, and blackberries:
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