29 December 2017
This was the first year I ever ate persimmons. I’d seen the fruits often enough - as consumption has risen, they have become a regular feature in UK supermarkets during the winter months. But I’d always passed them by. No longer. On a whim, I bought a pack of three.
My first taste of them was as the star (metaphorically and literally) of a very nice pavlova, where the meringue was topped with raspberry cream, persimmons and raspberries. It was enough to make me ambitious to make up for lost time.
There are good reasons to make persimmons part of your diet. They are good sources of beta carotene, as well as manganese, Vitamins A and C and potassium. They have a good ratio of antioxidants, and provide fibre.
There are two different types of Persimmon, and it’s quite important to know which you’re dealing with. The hachiya persimmons are rich and sweet - so long as you eat them when they’re completely soft and ripe, with squishy flesh that needs to be spooned. Trouble them before that point, and you’re in for a mouthful of tart astringency. They have a slightly elongated shape. The other ones are fuyu persimmons. These you can eat happily much as you would an apple. These are flatter.
Persimmons hail from China, Korea and Japan, although they are also now grown in the US, parts of the Middle East and Spain.
You can cook them, but their flavour doesn’t hold up well with heating, so they’re best eaten on their own or in cold desserts. Although they are golden and shiny, the skins are actually thin and you can eat them, although some people prefer to peel them. Cinnamon and cardamon are spices that work well with them, making them a natural addition to Christmas if you can manage anything other than mince pies and plum pudding.
But do be gentle with them. The fruit is prone to bruising. When buying them, bear in mind that the fruits are shipped unripe (they take on their golden colour before actually becoming ripe). They should be glossy, free from damage or bruises. If you get some that still need to ripen, you can ripen them on a sunny windowsill. The old trick of putting fruit in a bag alongside some bananas works for these, but bear in mind that it can take some time - weeks not days - for hachiya persimmons to ripen.
From a sustainability point of view, of course the one thing persimmons are not is locally grown. There is always a transport implication when choosing them. Their value as fresh, nutritious fruit that is available during the winter months makes some case for them though. And if you can find ones from Southern Europe that reduces the impact significantly. If you were going to eat mostly local foods supplemented by some delicious, healthy and life-affirming imports, you would count persimmons in.