Persimmons are those fruit you spot at the supermarket that resemble a peculiar looking orange tomato. In actual fact the persimmon is Asian in origin, the national fruit of Japan and the Latin word for it means food of the gods1.
There are hundreds of varieties of persimmons and they are categorised into two groups: the Asian persimmon, called kaki in Asia and Europe, and the wild American persimmon. The most common Asian persimmon is the hichiya and is acorn shaped with sweet, tender flesh. Another popularly cultivated variety, especially in Israel, is known as Sharon fruit. It’s sweet enough to eat while still quite firm and has a beautiful star shaped pattern when cut open.
Locally, Persimmons are cultivated in a few regions of the Western Cape, Kwazulu Natal and Eastern Gauteng. Excellent climates, similar to that of the Mediterranean, ensure a decent production of Sharon fruit, which is largely exported to the Northern Hemisphere2.
A ripe persimmon can be distinguished by its blemished skin and almost overripe tomato feel that yields easily when touched. The sweet pulpy flesh can be scooped out and enjoyed on its own or added to fruit mousses, custards, baked puddings or fruit salads. It makes an excellent accompaniment to cheese and smoked meat. Persimmons love a squeeze of citrus – it brings their flavour to life.
On the health benefit side, persimmons are high in vitamin A and C, high in fibre, low in calories, contains no fat and is high in antioxidants. They are high in fructose, however, so as with all things, consume them in moderation!
Persimmons can be added to fruit or dairy smoothies. It pairs well with the likes of mango, coconut milk, banana, papaya, peach and apple. A dash of honey blends well with the flavour of persimmon. Apart from smoothies, persimmon can be used in salads, both cold and warm, tarts and cakes. The pulp can be cooked with a little sugar and some spices to be used as a filling for pastries together with custard. It’s beautiful in fruit salad and as mentioned before, pairs famously with cheese and cold meat.
This strange, yet quite unique little fruit is versatile beyond thought and should really be utilised in recipes more often.
- Food facts, n.d., What Are Persimmons Good For, viewed on 11 June 2014, from http://foodfacts.mercola.com/persimmon.html
- ARISA, n.d., Fruit Industry, viewed on 11 June 2014, from http://www.sharon-fruit.com/about-us/sharon-fruit-industry.html