As summer has come to a close, we find ourselves missing the delicious fruit and vegetables we have been accustomed to over the past few months. However, we welcome a fall harvest that brings a bounty of new and familiar flavors. We can start enjoying winter squashes like pumpkin and butternut squash, hardy greens, and of course all different types of apples and pears. One of my favorite, and less common fall fruits that is in season for a short window, is the persimmon. The two most well-known varieties are the Hachiya and Fuyu persimmons.
The Hachiya persimmon has a soft and sweet flesh when ripe that can be used in place of jam and is often used in baked goods, similar to how pureed pumpkin is added to breads, muffins, and other desserts. This variety should only be eaten when fully ripened, otherwise it can be unpleasantly astringent (thanks to the high levels of tannin) and leave an unpleasantly puckery, furry feeling in your mouth. You’ll know it’s fully ripe when it’s very soft and squishy, like a water balloon.
HOW TO EAT
Simply remove the calyx or stem at top and scoop out the soft, juicy flesh with a spoon. Or you can split it in half and use your teeth to scoop out mouthfuls. Either way, prepare for a delicious mess.
The heart-shaped Fuyu persimmon has a sweet mild flavor, and a more crisp texture that is delicious eaten by itself or can be a great addition to a salad. Unlike the Hachiya, which can only be eaten when it’s SOFT, this Fuyu variety is meant to be eaten hard.
HOW TO EAT
Once the stem is removed, you can bite into it and eat it just like you would an apple. It’s totally okay to eat the skin or you can peel it – your choice. It’s also great eaten in slices or tossed in a salad.
NUTRITIONAL PROFILE OF PERSIMMONS
1. Vitamin C – Vitamin C is an important antioxidant that may help to protect against heart disease and cancer.
2. Vitamin A – Found in the bright orange pigment of the fruit, Vitamin A is essential for our vision.
3. Dietary fiber – like most fruits and vegetables, persimmons are a good source of dietary fiber which help aide in digestion, lower blood sugars, cholesterol and keep us full.
4. Phytochemicals – persimmons contain catechins and gallcatechins which may help to reduce risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other illnesses.
If that’s not enough reason to try a persimmon, they also taste great. If you are looking for an innovative side dish for Thanksgiving, here are some links to fun recipes involving persimmons:
*Note: If you are looking to cut back on the sugar content of this recipe, you could reduce the honey which will just result in a more tart cranberry sauce.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jennifer Krohn, MS RD, is a registered dietitian and NASM certified personal trainer. Jennifer earned her Masters degree of nutritional science from New York University. She has been working at the Veteran’s hospital for the past 6 years helping veteran’s achieve their health goals through improved nutrition. Jennifer specializes in weight management, diabetes counseling, as well as nutritional management of various chronic conditions. As a prior marathon runner, she has a passion for sports nutrition and has led workshops for athletes and coaches through Team In Training. She practices dietetics full time and spends the rest of her free time working out at Barry’s Bootcamp and cooking up new recipes.