The Persimmon is the ocherous forgotten fruit and the ultimate worker bee. Very unique, but incredibly delicious. Extremely wholesome and nourishing making it an amazing beauty superfood. I can go on forever about this golden beauty powerhouse. If you don’t know the taste and your experience is limited, here is a quick lesson. There are many varieties but two major types that are either American or Japanese. I will be diving into the American variety.
They start out astringent and eventually develop a juicy, flavorful, very desirable, taste when it ripens to the point of being soft. After they ripen they are very sweet and exhibit a flavor profile with hints of date and plum normally mid to late fall. Like the tomato, persimmons are not popularly considered to be berries, but in terms of botanical morphology the fruit is in fact a berry. When used in recipes they usually ask for the pulp.
The genus name for the American Persimmon means “Fruit of the Gods” or “Divine Fruit” a reference to the delicious golden-orange fruits that often hang on the tree after the leaves drop in autumn. The American persimmon, ‘Diospyros virginiana,’ was found growing in Virginia by the early American Captain John Smith in 1609, who described the tree and the persimmon fruit in great detail and as tasting like an apricot. He wrote, “If it be not ripe it will drawe a man’s mouth awrie, with much torment; but when it is ripe, it is as delicious as an Apricock.” Meaning if they are even the slightest bit unripe, you’ll end up with your face contorted into pucker when you bite into it.
The persimmon was an important nutritional source for the Native Amercians. In fact, the word persimmon comes from the Algonquin pessamin, meaning chokefruit. American Indians would pick and dry the wild persimmons, later baking the dried fruit into loaves of bread and utilizing it in just about everything. They added the fruit pulp to their cornbread as sweetener, dried the pulp for winter fruit, ground seeds into meal to make breads and thick soups and even made a beer-like drink by combining persimmons and honey locust pods. African Americans used Persimmons to make sweet pudding, candy, and cakes. Early settlers and pioneers valued the wild Persimmon because its fruits are easily available and literally fall into your hands if you shake a ripe tree and later for both food and medicine.
*During the American Civil War, members of the Confederacy found many additional uses for the persimmon. The seeds were made into buttons and also roasted and ground to produce a coffee substitute. Syrup was made from the ripe fruit, and green fruit was used to make ink. Persimmons have been used medicinally as an astringent and antiseptic and for the treatment of uterine hemorrhage, diarrhea and dysentery, diphtheria, dropsy, fevers, gonorrhea, hemorrhoids, syphilis, and thrush. Persimmon wood is hard and heavy and has been used to produce gunstocks, shoe lasts, planes, chisel handles, screws, mallets, wedges for splitting tree trunks, the shafts of carriages, the heads of golf clubs, engravings, cogs for saw mills and shuttle blocks for cotton looms.
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Manganese, a co-factor for the enzyme superoxide dismutase, for healthy mucous membranes and skin, as well as a known protectant against lung and mouth cancers.
- Persimmons are an excellent source of fiber, which helps keep the body regulated.
- B-complex vitamins are present to stabilize the metabolic system.
- Low in calories and fats, this little fruit contains all kinds of phytonutrients, flavonoids, and antioxidants, such as catechins (known to have antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties, and for protecting small blood vessels from bleeding)
- Other powerful antioxidants found in persimmons include beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and cryptoxanthin.
Phew…. this is the most incredible use of one little fruit. Now we know why it’s referred to as “food of the gods”. We have completely under utilized this amazing beauty food and gift from nature. Below is a link to Hunts Institute for botanical documentation where I read the information about all the uses of the persimmon during the Civil War.
I hope this post inspires you to try new real foods, increase your palate and enjoy the sweetness of the season and learn from our ancestors to keep your complexion radiant and glowing from the inside out!
*HUNTIA 12(1) 2005
71 Abstract The fruit, bark and wood of the common persimmon (excerpt from thesis) written by C.H. BRIAND. http://faculty.salisbury.edu/~chbriand/PDFs/Huntia05.pdf