For centuries Japan and China have been growing the Oriental or Japanese persimmon. It is probably native to China, since it was introduced to Japan from that country. The Japanese consider it their national fruit but it is more properly called Oriental rather than Japanese persimmon, since it is not native to Japan. Commodore Perry’s expedition, which opened Japan to world commerce in 1852, is credited with the introduction of this fruit to the United States.
The persimmon that is native to the United States grows wild in the East from Connecticut to Florida, and in the West from Texas to Kansas. This persimmon is much smaller than the Oriental, but has richer flesh. The wild fruit grows in sufficient abundance to satisfy local demand, and little or no shipping is done.
In general, persimmons that have dark-colored flesh are always sweet and nonastringent and may be eaten before they become too soft. Varieties with light-colored flesh, with the exception of the Fuyu variety, are astringent until they soften. The astringency is due to the presence of a large amount of tannin, the same substance found in tea. As the fruit ripens and sweetens the tannin disappears. Ripening can take place just as well off the tree as on.
The Japanese remove the “pucker” from persimmons by placing them in casks that have been used for sake, or Japanese liquor. Allowing persimmons to sweeten naturally will remove the “pucker,” or tannin.
The season for persimmons is October through December, and the peak month is November. Almost all commercial shipments originate in California. The Hachiya is the largest and handsomest oriental variety grown in this country. As a rule, California produces a seedless variety, but the Hachiya grown in Florida has one or more seeds. The Hachiya fruit is cone-shaped and terminates in a black point. The skin is a glossy, deep, orange-red and the flesh is deep yellow, astringent until soft, but sweet and rich when ripe. The Tanenashi is the more important variety in the southeastern states. There are many other varieties that are grown commercially.
Good quality fruit is well-shaped, plump, smooth, and highly colored. The skin is unbroken and the stem cap is attached. Ripeness is usually indicated by softness.
When thoroughly ripe, persimmons are a rich source of fruit sugar. Dried persimmons are almost as sweet as candy. They are rich in potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus, and are good to use in a soft diet.
NUTRIENTS IN ONE POUND
Protein: 2.6 g
Fat: 1.8 g
Carbohydrates: 73 g
Calcium: 26 mg
Phosphorus: 97 mg
Iron: 1.3 mg
Vitamin A: 10,080 I.U.
Thiamine: .11 mg
Riboflavin: .08 mg
Niacin: .4 mg
Ascorbic acid: 48 mg