Today we’re look at the unique Persimmon. Yes, it is a berry, at least in terms of botanical morphology (a branch of biology that deals with the study of plants, including their structure, properties, and biochemical processes). The word persimmon comes from several Greek words meaning “divine fruit”. For the Native American Indians, it meant “a dry fruit”.
These berries are sweet and delicious and have many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants for promoting health. The persimmon tree is classified into two general categories: those bearing “astringent” fruit (while unripe), and those bearing “non-astringent” fruit. A non-astringent persimmon contains less tannins (an astringent, bitter plant polyphenolic compound that binds to and precipitates proteins and various other organic compounds including amino acids) and should be eaten while it is crispy, like apples. The astringency is removed by treating the fruit with carbon dioxide or alcohol.
This delicate oriental fruit is actually native to China but it spread to Japan and was later introduced to California during the middle of the 19th century. The color of the fruit varies from a light yellow-orange to a dark orange-red, and the entire fruit minus the seed and calyx (flower) is edible.
Further Health Benefits of the persimmon show that it contains high levels of dietary fiber, phenolic compounds, potassium, magnesium, iron, calcium, and manganese, along with Vitamin C and beta carotene. Here is a fruit that is also low in calories and fats. Antioxidant properties in persimmons function as scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals, thus helping to prevent various diseases.
Persimmons are enjoyed numerous ways – fresh, dried or cooked. If eating them fresh, it is best to eat them whole, like an apple, or you can cut into quarters. Please remember that American persimmons are completely inedible until they are fully ripe, so don’t try eating them before their time!
In North America, persimmon wood—a lightly colored, fine-grained wood—is used to manufacture billiard cues and textile shuttles.
The persimmon is included in various cultural folklore. Ozark folklore determines the severity of the upcoming winter by slicing a persimmon and observing the cutlery-shaped formation within it. Many contend that this is totally a myth, but for those following the folklore, says that if the seeds display a “spoon”, it means snow but if you see a “fork”, it will be a mild winter, whereas a “knife” means a cold, biting winter.
In Korean folklore, the dried persimmon has a reputation of scaring away tigers. (I’ll remember that one if I ever travel to Korea.)
We have other “unique” berries to look at coming up, so stay tuned.