Persimmons are orange or reddish-brown colored fruits, which are shaped like small, flat tomatoes. They are known to have a sweet and textured flavor. There are usually two kinds of persimmons –the astringent and the non-astringent varieties. Astringent persimmons are high in plant chemicals known as tannins, which tends to give the unripe version of the fruit a bitter and dry taste. One must wait for an astringent persimmon to ripen to eat it. Non-astringent, on the other hand, is a variety, which is also rich in tannins but can be eaten unripe.
Persimmons belong to the scientific family, Diospyros. As more information about ancient cultures has emerged, thanks to anthropology and archaeology, different types of persimmons have been classified into the following:
- Japanese persimmon
- American persimmon
- Black persimmon
- Date-plum tree
- Indian persimmon
All of them share much of the same basic nutritional value and health benefits, with a few notable differences, like fiber content and trace amounts of unusual organic compounds. there are a number of common names and nicknames for persimmons, including “Jove’s fire”, “The Fruit of the Gods”, and “Nature’s Candy”. Persimmons can be eaten fresh, dried, raw, or cooked, which changes the flavor, but they are generally sweet and pulpy. If allowed to ripen fully, the flesh can almost be scooped out with a spoon.
Benefits of persimmon
- Anti-Cancer Properties – This delicious little fruit is packed with antioxidants, the anti-cancer agents that can boost your body’s ability to fight free radicals, improve overall health and protect against many diseases. Free radicals are the by-products of cellular metabolism that can mutate healthy cells into cancerous ones and damage various organ systems. Dr. Kim HJ and Dr. Kim MK, Department of Food and Nutrition, Ewha Woman’s University, Korea, published a study in the Korean Journal of Nutrition that explored the anticancer impact of persimmon leaf extracts on human gastric cancer cells. It concluded that persimmon leaf extracts revealed strong anticancer effects. Persimmons have high levels of vitamin C and A, beta-carotene, flavonoids as well as phenolic compounds like catechins and gallocatechins, which are linked to preventing different types of cancer. Dr. Naresh Kumar, Dr. Masood Sadiq Butt, published a study in the Experimental and Clinical Sciences Journal that suggests that this fruit possesses carotenoids and catechins that hold anticancer perspectives against various cancer cell lines.
- Boost Immunity – Persimmons help boost immunity due to the presence of vitamin C. They have one of the highest ascorbic acid (vitamin C) content among other fruits and a single persimmon has approximately 80% of the daily requirement of this beneficial nutrient. P. Koehler, R. Eitenmiller, University of Georgia, USA, in a study published in the Journal of Food Quality has stated that Vitamin C stimulates the immune system and increases the production of white blood cells, which are the primary line of defense for the body against microbial, viral, and fungal infections, as well as foreign bodies or toxins.
- Aids in Digestion – Like most fruits, persimmons are a good source of fiber, containing almost 20% of the daily requirement in a single serving. Fiber helps the body process food in a more efficient way by adding bulk to the stool, stimulating peristaltic motion to move the food through the digestive tract, increasing secretions of gastric and digestive juices, and relieving symptoms of constipation and diarrhea. Overall, a high-fiber fruit like persimmon can be a major boost to your gastrointestinal system and can protect you from colorectal cancer and other similar diseases. It can also help people lose weight by defending them against lipid uptake, which can cause obesity. Dr. Shela Gorinstein, Dr. Marina Zemser, Dr. Martin Belloso, published a study in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, which stated that fruits like persimmon that’s rich in dietary fiber improve lipid metabolism and prevent the oxidation of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), which halts the development of atherosclerosis.
- Prevents Premature Aging – Persimmons are rich in a number of vitamins, specifically vitamin A, beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene, and cryptoxanthin. These vitamins function as antioxidants in the body to reduce oxidative stress and prevent premature aging, like wrinkles, age spots, fatigue, loss of vision, muscles weakness, and a number of other conditions. A team of Japanese researchers published a study which supports the protective potential of a certain kind of polyphenol found in persimmon peel, that plays a crucial role against oxidative damage under the aging process.
- Improves Vision – The compounds in persimmons also have a proven benefit for the health of the eyes. Zeaxanthin is a member of the B complex of vitamins, which is present in persimmons, and according to Dr. Kwak-Wai Lam and Dr. Paul But’s study, published in the Food Journal, zeaxanthin has a direct link to improved eye health due to its behavior as an antioxidant substance. It further states that this compound reduces macular degeneration, cataracts, and night blindness.
- Control Blood Pressure – Potassium is another mineral found in significant quantities in persimmons. Potassium can act as a vasodilator and lower blood pressure, thereby increasing blood flow to various parts of the body. Low blood pressure also reduces strain on the cardiovascular system and prevents various heart diseases from occurring. Persimmons also contain various vasolidating organic compounds that further lower blood pressure, making them a very good fruit for heart health. Dr. Chin Fang Liu, Dr. Shizue Kurakane, published a study in the Food, Science Technology Reserve, in which they investigated the antihypertensive effects of unripe persimmon in spontaneously hypertensive rats. The study showed that when the rats were fed the fruit for 2-3 days, there was a drop in their blood pressure. However, more scientific evidence and studies are required to support this claim.
- Regulate Blood Circulation – Along with lowering blood pressure, persimmons provide copper, an essential element in creating new red blood cells. Without copper, one cannot uptake various essential nutrients to make additional hemoglobin. Increased circulation of healthy red blood cells increases cognitive function, muscle tone, metabolism, and energy levels, as well as wound repair and cellular growth. A team of Korean researchers led by Dr. Myung-Sook Choi, Kyungpook National University published a study in the Journal of Medicinal Food that revealed the beneficial effects of the ethanol extract of persimmon tree leaves on the blood circulation and lipid metabolism in rats, who are fed a high-fat diet. The study revealed that it has the potential to improve circulation by hampering blood clotting and platelet activation and by bringing down the plasma cholesterol levels. However, further detailed studies are required to explore this particular health benefit.
- Improves Metabolic Activity – Persimmons contain elements of the B complex of vitamins like pyridoxine, folic acid, and thiamin, which are all essential parts of various enzymatic processes and metabolic functions throughout the body. And these elements ensure that the body’s systems function efficiently and effectively, thereby increasing the overall metabolism. Dr. Long-Gang Zhao, Dr. Quing-Li-Zhang, published a study in the Scientific Reports Journal, which states that beta-carotene present in persimmons can prevent metabolic disorders, apart from other grave diseases. Further, persimmons can boost energy levels, increase muscle tone, and improve digestion.
Adding persimmons to your diet
Persimmons can be eaten fresh, dried, raw, or cooked, which changes the flavor, but they are generally sweet and pulpy. If allowed to ripen fully, the flesh can almost be scooped out with a spoon.
Persimmon fruiting season begins in mid September and lasts until November, sometimes December. Persimmons can be consumed anytime of the day but the best time is morning but not on an empty stomach.
Persimmon fruit is very commonly known for its health benefits. However, what many people do not know is that it has certain limitations for consumptions that can also result in side effects, if not maintained properly. These side effects are mentioned below.
- Persimmon contains a good amount of tannin. Hence, if this fruit is taken in empty stomach, it results in diarrhea. It should also be consumed in a limited quantity.
- Those, who have a low blood pressure, should not eat this fruit as it can further lower the blood pressure, leading to more serious health problems associated with low blood pressure.
- The sugar content in persimmon fruit is really high and hence, those, who suffer from diabetes, should stay away from this fruit.
- Many people mistake that eating the fruit with the skin will add to the beneficial effects. In contrary, the fact is that most of the tannic acid is concentrated in the skin. Hence, the skin should never be eaten; otherwise, this would lead to the formation of stone in the stomach.
- Even eating the fruit with “cold foods” like fish, crab or shrimp, will lead to the formation of stone in the stomach. This is because these are high protein foods and the tannic acid, by acting on these proteins, forms the stone.
Recipe for Spicy Persimmon Chutney
Calories – 45
1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup chopped onion
1 large Granny Smith apple – peeled, cored and chopped
1 cup golden raisins
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 green chile peppers, seeded and minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
4 Fuyu persimmons, peeled and chopped
In a large saucepan combine the apple cider vinegar, chopped onion, chopped apple, golden raisins, sugar, lemon juice, chili, ginger, lemon peel, coriander and cloves. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until mixture thickens, stirring frequently, about 25 minutes. Add the persimmons and simmer until the persimmons are tender about 5 to 10 minutes.
Remove from the heat and let cool completely. Cover and refrigerate chutney. May be made a day or two ahead.
Recipe for Baked Persimmon Indian Pudding
1 cup soft-ripe persimmon pulp
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 cup sugar
About 1/2 cup (1/4 lb.) butter or margarine, at room temperature
1/4 cup dark molasses
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
In a blender or food processor, whirl persimmon pulp and baking soda until smooth.
In a bowl, with a mixer on medium speed, beat sugar, 1/2 cup butter, and molasses until blended. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth. In another bowl, mix flour, cornmeal, cinnamon, ginger, and allspice. Stir dry ingredients and persimmon purée into sugar-butter mixture. Add raisins and walnuts and mix until blended.
Pour batter into a buttered and floured 7- to 8-cup loaf pan or ring mold (no deeper than 3 in.); cover tightly with foil. Put pan in a larger pan and place in a 300° oven. Add 3/4 inch boiling water to outer pan around loaf pan or 1/2 inch boiling water around ring mold.
Bake until pudding is firm in center when lightly pressed (lift foil to check), about 2 hours (about 1 1/4 hours in a convection oven). Carefully lift pan from water and let stand 10 minutes, then uncover. Run a knife between pudding and sides of pan to release. Invert onto a plate. Cut warm or cool pudding into slices, transfer to plates, and top with spoonfuls of persimmon-eggnog sauce.
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