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Persimmon
American persimmon flower
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Ericales
Family: Ebenaceae
Genus: Diospyros
Species

See text

A persimmon is the edible fruit of a number of species of trees of the genus Diospyros in the ebony wood family (Ebenaceae). The word Diospyros means "the fruit of the gods"[1] in ancient Greek. The word persimmon is derived from putchamin, pasiminan, or pessamin, from Powhatan, an Algonquian language (related to Blackfoot, Cree and Mohican) of the eastern United States, meaning "a dry fruit".[2] Persimmons are generally light yellow-orange to dark red-orange in color, and depending on the species, vary in size from 1.5 to 9 cm (0.5 to 4 in) diameter, and may be spherical, acorn-, or pumpkin-shaped.[3] The calyx often remains attached to the fruit after harvesting, but becomes easier to remove as it ripens. They are high in glucose, with a balanced protein profile, and possess various medicinal and chemical uses. While the persimmon fruit is not considered a "common berry" it is in fact a "true berry" by definition.

Contents

Select species

The Black Persimmon or Black Sapote (Diospyros digyna) is native to Mexico. Its fruit has green skin and white flesh, which turns black when ripe.

The Mabolo or Velvet-apple (Diospyros discolor) is native to the Philippines. It is bright red when ripe. It is also native to China, where it is known as Kaki.

Diospyros kaki

The Japanese Persimmon or kaki (柿) (Diospyros kaki), "shizi" (柿子) in Chinese, is the most widely cultivated species. These are sweet, slightly tangy fruits with a soft to occasionally fibrous texture. This species, native to China, is deciduous, with broad, stiff leaves. Cultivation of the fruit extended first to other parts of east Asia, and was later introduced to California and southern Europe in the 1800s, to Brazil in the 1890s[4], and numerous cultivars have been selected. It is edible in its crisp firm state, but has its best flavor when allowed to rest and soften slightly after harvest. The Japanese cultivar 'Hachiya' is a widely grown cultivar. The fruit has a high tannin content which makes the immature fruit astringent and bitter. The tannin levels are reduced as the fruit matures. Persimmons like 'Hachiya' must be completely ripened before consumption. When ripe, this fruit comprises thick pulpy jelly encased in a waxy thin skinned shell. "Sharon Fruit" (named originally after Sharon plain in Israel) is the trade name for D. kaki fruit that has been artificially ripened with chemicals.[5]

Nanyo City, Yamagata, Japan. October 2005.

The Date-plum (Diospyros lotus) is native to southwest Asia and southeast Europe. It was known to the ancient Greeks as "the fruit of the gods", or often referred to as "natures candy" i.e. Dios pyros (lit. "the wheat of Zeus"), hence the scientific name of the genus. Its English name probably derives from Persian Khormaloo خرمالو literally "Date-Plum", referring to the taste of this fruit which is reminiscent of both plums and dates. This species is one candidate for the lotus mentioned in the Odyssey: it was so delicious that those who ate it forgot about returning home and wanted to stay and eat lotus with the lotus-eaters.[6]

The American Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) is native to the eastern United States and is higher in nutrients like vitamin C and calcium than the Japanese Persimmon.[7]

There are many other species of persimmon that are inedible to humans, and thus have little or no commercial value for their fruit.

Fruit

A fuyu persimmon fruit
A ripe hachiya persimmon fruit

Commercially, there are generally two types of persimmon fruit: astringent and non-astringent.

The heart-shaped Hachiya is the most common variety of astringent persimmon. Astringent persimmons contain very high levels of soluble tannins and are unpalatable if eaten before softening. The astringency of tannins is removed through ripening by exposure to light over several days, wrapping the fruit in paper (probably because this increases the ethylene concentration of the surrounding air), and/or artificially with chemicals such as alcohol and carbon dioxide which change tannin into the insoluble form. This bletting process is sometimes jumpstarted by exposing the fruit to cold or frost which hastens cellular wall breakdown. These astringent persimmons can also be prepared for commercial purposes by drying.

The non-astringent persimmon is squat like a tomato and is most commonly sold as fuyu. Non-astringent persimmons are not actually free of tannins as the term suggests, but rather are far less astringent before ripening, and lose more of their tannic quality sooner. Non-astringent persimmons may be consumed when still very firm to very very soft.

Persimmon output in 2006

There is a third type, less commonly available, the pollination-variant non-astringent persimmons. When fully pollinated, the flesh of these fruit is brown inside -known as goma in Japan, and the fruit can be eaten firm. These varieties are highly sought after and can be found at specialty markets or farmers markets only[citation needed]. Tsurunoko, sold as "Chocolate persimmon" for its dark brown flesh, Maru, sold as "Cinnamon persimmon" for its spicy flavor, and Hyakume, sold as "Brown sugar" are the three best known.

Before ripening, persimmons usually have a "chalky" taste or bitter taste.

  • Astringent
    • Hongsi (Korean, 홍시)- large, tall & shaped like an acorn
    • 'Hachiya' (ja:蜂屋), 'Kōshū hyakume' (ja:甲州百目), 'Fuji' (ja:富士)
    • Tanenashi
      • 'Hiratanenashi' (ja:平核無)
      • 'Tone wase' (ja:刀根早生)
    • 'Saijō' (ja:西条)
    • 'Dōjō hachiya' (ja:堂上蜂屋)
    • 'Gionbō'
    • Sheng
    • Ormond
  • Nonastringent
    • 'Fuyū' (ja:富有)
    • Dan gam (Korean, 단감)- looks like a flattened tomato
    • 'Jirō' (ja:次郎柿)
    • 'Taishū' (ja:太秋)
    • 'Hanagosho' (ja:花御所)
    • 'Izu' (ja:伊豆)
    • 'Sōshū' (ja:早秋)
Persimmons
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 293 kJ (70 kcal)
Carbohydrates 18.59 g
Sugars 12.53 g
Dietary fiber 3.6 g
Fat .19 g
saturated .02 g
Protein .58 g
Riboflavin (Vit. B2) 2.5 mg (167%)
Folate (Vit. B9) 8 μg (2%)
Vitamin C 7.5 mg (13%)
Calcium 8 mg (1%)
Iron .15 mg (1%)
Sodium 1 mg (0%)

Diospyros kaki, raw
Percentages are relative to US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient database
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Fruit production

The table below shows figures of persimmons for the world's top ten persimmon producing countries according to FAO statistics.

Production figures in tonnes per year[8]
Country 1970 1990 1995 2000 2005
China 457341 640230 985803 1615797 1837000
Korea 30310 95758 194585 287847 250000
Japan 342700 285700 254100 278800 230000
Brazil 21659 46712 51685 63300 150000
Italy 59600 68770 61300 42450 51332
Israel - 17200 11000 14000 40000
New Zealand - 972 1600 1200 1300
Iran 25 925 1000 1000 1000
Australia - 329 640 650 650
Mexico - 275 274 450 450


Culinary uses

Peeled, flattened, and dried persimmons (shibing;柿餅) in a Xi'an market

Persimmons are eaten fresh or dried, raw or cooked. When eaten fresh, the skin is usually cut/peeled off and the fruit is often cut into quarters or eaten whole like an apple. One way to consume very ripe persimmons, which can have the texture of pudding, is to remove the top leaf with a paring knife and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. The flesh ranges from firm to mushy and the texture is unique. The flesh is very sweet and when firm possesses an apple-like crunch. American persimmons are completely inedible until they are fully ripe. In China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam after harvesting, 'Hachiya' persimmons are prepared using traditional hand-drying techniques, outdoors for two to three weeks. The fruit is then further dried by exposure to heat over several days before being shipped to market. In Japan the dried fruit is called hoshigaki (干し柿), in China it is known as "shi-bing" (柿饼), in Korea it is known as gotgam (hangul: 곶감), and in Vietnam it is called hồng khô. It is eaten as a snack or dessert and used for other culinary purposes.

Kaki preserved in lime water

In Korea, dried persimmon fruits are used to make the traditional Korean spicy punch, sujeonggwa, while the matured, fermented fruit is used to make a persimmon vinegar called gamsikcho (감식초), which is alleged to have a variety of health benefits. The hoshigaki tradition traveled to California with Japanese American immigrants. A few farms still practice the art, which is being revived in part through the efforts of Slow Food USA, which describes the technique on its site and provides links to producers.

In Taiwan, fruits of astringent varieties are sealed in jars filled with lime water to get rid of bitterness. Slightly hardened in the process, they are sold under the name "crisp persimmon" (cuishi 脆柿) or "water persimmon" (shuishizi 水柿子). Preparation time is dependent upon temperature (5 to 7 days at 25-28°C). In some areas of Manchuria and Korea, the dried leaves of the fruit are used for making tea. The Korean name for this tea is ghamnip cha (감잎차).

干し柿 Hoshigaki, Japanese dried persimmon

The persimmon also figures prominently in American culinary tradition. It can be used in cookies, cakes, puddings, salads, curries[2] and as a topping for breakfast cereal. Persimmon pudding is a dessert using fresh persimmons. An annual persimmon festival, featuring a persimmon pudding contest, is held every September in Mitchell, Indiana. Persimmon pudding is a baked pudding that has the consistency of pumpkin pie but resembles a brownie and is almost always topped with whipped cream. Persimmons may be stored at room temperature (20°C) where they will continue to ripen. In northern China, unripe persimmons are frozen outside during winter to speed up the ripening process.

In Vietnam, the fruit is a part of Mid-Autumn Festival offering.

Ethnomedical uses

  • In traditional Chinese medicine the fruit is thought to regulate ch'i
  • The raw fruit is used to treat constipation and hemorrhoids, and to stop bleeding. As such, it is not a good idea to consume too many persimmons at once as they can induce diarrhea
  • The cooked fruit is used to treat diarrhea and dysentery
  • The apparent contradictory effect of the raw and cooked fruit is due to its osmotic effect in the raw fruit sugar (causing diarrhea), and the high tannin content of the cooked fruit helping with diarrhea.

Phytonutrients

The fruits of some persimmon varieties contain the tannins catechin and gallocatechin,[9] as well as the anti-tumor compounds betulinic acid and shibuol, although the latter may also cause gastrointestinal problems.

Medical precaution

Unripened persimmons contain the soluble tannin shibuol, which, upon contact with a weak acid, polymerizes in the stomach and forms a gluey coagulum that can affix with other stomach matter.[10] The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy notes that consumption of persimmons has been known to cause bezoars that require surgery in over 90% of cases. More than 85% phytobezoars are caused by ingestion of unripened persimmons.[11] Persimmon bezoars often occur in epidemics in regions where the fruit is grown.[12][13]

[14] Horses may develop a taste for the fruit growing on a tree in their pasture and overindulge also, making them quite ill. It is often advised that persimmons should not be eaten on an empty stomach.[15]

Wood

An example of persimmon wood furniture

Though persimmon trees belong to the same genus as ebony trees, persimmon tree wood has a limited use in the manufacture of objects requiring hard wood. It is hard, but cracks easily and is somewhat difficult to process. Persimmon wood is used for paneling in traditional Korean and Japanese furniture.

In North America, the lightly colored, fine-grained wood of D. virginiana is used to manufacture billiard cues and textile shuttles. It is also used in the percussion field as the shaft of the Tim Genis Signature Timpani Mallet Collection. Persimmon wood was also heavily used in making the highest-quality heads of the golf clubs known as "woods" until the golf industry moved primarily to metal woods in the last years of the 20th century. In fact, the first metal woods made by TaylorMade, an early pioneer of that club type, were branded as "Pittsburgh Persimmons". Persimmon woods are still made, but in far lower numbers than in past decades. Over the last few decades persimmon wood has become popular among bow craftsmen, especially in the making of traditional longbows. Persimmon wood is used in making a small number of wooden flutes and eating utensils such as wooden spoons and cornbread knives (wooden knives that may cut through the bread without scarring the dish).

Like some other plants of the genus Diospyros, older persimmon heartwood is black or dark brown in color, in stark contrast to the sapwood and younger heartwood, which is pale in color.

Trees

The trees of all species are quite attractive, but the female of the D. virginiana can be less attractive than the male because the leaves droop when fruiting, perhaps because of the heavier nutrient requirements. They grow swiftly, and are immune to the usual delicacy of trees planted in unpredictable climates. They are one of the last trees to leaf out in the spring, and do not flower until well after the leaves have formed, bypassing the threat of blossom loss to frosts. The fruit hangs on the branches long into the winter. Because they grow swiftly and colonize off their root systems, they are ideal for helping recover habitat. A 1-2 year old persimmon tree will be mature enough to bear fruit within 7-8 years. They hold their own against flooding riverbanks quite well and are listed in Stormwater Journal's list of water-holding trees.[16]

Weather prediction folklore

It is said that one can predict the winter by taking the seeds out of some persimmons and then slicing the seeds. The shape that shows up the most inside each seed will indicate what kind of winter to expect. The three shapes resemble three eating utensils.
A Knife shape means there will be a cold icy winter (as in the wind will slice through you like a knife).
A Spoon shape means there will be plenty of snow to shovel.
A Fork shape means there will be a mild winter.[17]

Gallery

See also

References

  1. ^ Persimmons: Fruit of the Gods Retrieved on 2009-01-17.
  2. ^ Mish, Frederic C., Editor in Chief Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary Springfield, Massachuetts, U.S.A.:1984--Merriam-Webster Page 877
  3. ^ Carley Petersen and Annabelle Martin. "General Crop Information: Persimmon". University of Hawaii, Extension Entomology & UH-CTAHR Integrated Pest Management Program. http://www.extento.hawaii.edu/kbase/crop/crops/i_persim.htm. Retrieved 2007-01-15. 
  4. ^ The persimmon was first introduced to the State of São Paulo, afterwards expanding across Brazil through Japanese immigration; State of São Paulo is still the greatest producer, with an area of 3,610 hectares dedicated to persimmon culture in 2003; cf. [1]
  5. ^ "Persimmon Fruit Facts". California Rare Fruit Growers, Inc.,. http://www.crfg.org/pubs/ff/persimmon.html. Retrieved 2007-01-15. 
  6. ^ "The Odyssey by Homer, p.76 of this public domain e-text". Project Gutenberg. http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/1727. Retrieved 2007-10-13. 
  7. ^ "Nutrition Facts Comparison Tool". Healthaliciousness.com. 2008. http://www.healthaliciousness.com/nutritionfacts/nutrition-comparison.php?o=9265&t=9263&h=&s=100&e=100&r=100. Retrieved 2008-12-03. 
  8. ^ FAOSTAT
  9. ^ Nakatsubo, Fumiaki; Enokita, Murakami, Yonemori, Sugiura, Utsunomiya and Subhadrabandhu (October 2005). "Chemical structures of the condensed tannins in the fruits of Diospyros species". Journal of Wood Science (Jaoan: Springer Japan) 48 (5): 414–418. ISSN (Print) 1611-4663 (Online) 1435-0211 (Print) 1611-4663 (Online). http://www.springerlink.com/content/v02167564163632n/. Retrieved 2008-11-28. 
  10. ^ Verstanding AG, Bauch K, Bloom R, Hadas I, Libson E; Small-bowel phytobezoars: detection with radiography, Radiology, 1989;172:705-707
  11. ^ Delia CW Phytobezoars (diospyrobezoars). A clinicopathologic correlation and review of six cases. Arch Surg. 1961 Apr; 82:579-83.
  12. ^ "Bezoars". Online Medical Dictionary. Merck. 2007. http://www.merck.com/mmpe/sec02/ch014/ch014b.html. Retrieved 2008-11-28. 
  13. ^ The Merck Manuals Online Medical Libraries,Section: Gastrointestinal Disorders, Subject: Bezoars and Foreign Bodies, Topic: Bezoars
  14. ^ Merck Manual, Rahway, New Jersey, Sixteenth Edition, Gastrointestinal Disorders, Section 52, page 780
  15. ^ Damrosch, Barbara (2004-4-11-25). "East Meets West in a Fall Fruit". The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A6965-2004Nov23.html. Retrieved 2008-12-02. 
  16. ^ http://www.stormh2o.com/march-april-2002/trees-strormwater-treatment.aspx
  17. ^ Edwards, Ravae (2005-10-12). "From woolly worms to persimmons, people use a variety of methods to forecast the weather". News Tribune. http://www.newstribune.com/articles/2005/10/12/features/1009050040.txt. Retrieved 2008-12-02. 

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