It is no surprise to hear that fruits are good for us and that we should eat them. But it may come as a surprise to many to know just how many different, unique and nutritionally dense fruits there are out there. While some of us do eat lots of fruits each day, many of those seem to be the same traditional fruits over and over. And while there is nothing wrong with that, as ALL fruits are delicious and highly nutritious, there is nothing like exploring the unknown fruits of the Earth and adding them into our diets perhaps regularly or perhaps on some rare occasions as those extra special treats.
One of these highly exotic and also not well-known fruits for many in the Northern hemisphere is the Fuyu Persimmon. I discovered these fruits myself earlier this past winter and have been hooked on them since. They are delicious! This amazing fruit is just as highly nutritious, as it is delicious. In fact, its taste is something that I cannot say compares to any other fruit in the depth and richness of the sweetness it possesses. It is thus not a surprise or coincidence that the Greeks called this “the fruit of the Gods.”
Fuyu Persimmon Background
You may first off be wondering about the Fuyu persimmons odd name. The word “Fuyu” comes from Japanese and the word “persimmon” from Powhatan, an Algonquian language means “a dry fruit.” The biological genus this plant belongs to is “Diospyros”, which means as I mentioned earlier “the fruit of the Gods.”
There are hundreds of varieties of persimmons, with only about 2 that are easily available commercially – the fuyu and the hachiya. They are generally divided into two groups: the astringent (bitter) and the non-astringent. The fuyu belongs to the non-astringent types because it is palatable both before and after fully ripening, whereas the hachiya belongs to the astringent varieties, which are only edible after fully ripening.
The Fuyu persimmon is a deeply orange fruit that is firm, crispy and delicately sweet when not fully ripe and darker, jelly-like and amazingly sweet when fully ripe. Now it is hard to relate to you the “sweet” taste that I am talking about, especially given that most fruits are “sweet.” However, this “sweet” is honestly like nothing I have ever tasted before. It is not an overwhelming or nauseating kind of sweet but like a unique honey and deliciously rich type of sweet. I am sure that it will not please some people’s taste buds, as not all things do, but generally speaking it is something that everyone must try for themselves to see just how good it really is.
The fruit fits in the palm of a hand, slightly smaller than an apple and looks like a mini-pumpkin.
This fruit was native to China thousands of years ago and then introduced in Japan. Since then, the persimmon has become Japan’s national fruit and one of the traditional foods of the Japanese New Year. The persimmon fruits first arrived in California in the mid-1800s, making it one of the earliest commercially grown fruits in the United States.
So while I would love to tell you all to just run out to the grocery store and get some to try, it is not an easy fruit to find in all stores or even in all areas across North America. The reason for this is that the fruit is grown and harvested in typically warmer climates and hence has to be imported. And while some stores are able to get this fruit and stock it regularly, most are not. This is mainly because it is still a greatly unknown fruit to most, and hence the demand for it is not great enough in many parts to make the import worthwhile.
China is the largest producer of persimmons, followed by Japan, Korea, and Brazil. Here in Ontario, the major source of the fuyu is Israel, where the fuyu persimmons are called “Sharon Fruit.”
Even though in the past, the astringent hachiya persimmon variety was the most common persimmon, today the fuyu persimmon accounts for about 80% of the persimmon market, with the hachiya accounting for only about 20%.
Nutritional & Health Information
The fuyu is a rich source of antioxidants, vitamin A, manganese and fiber, especially soluble fiber. It contains a fair amount of some of the B-complex vitamins, potassium and calcium. Generally speaking 1 fruit contains:
- Calories: 118
- Carbohydrates: 19 – 31g
- Omega-3 fatty acids: 6.7mg
- Omega-6 fatty acids: 65.5mg
- Protein: 0.6 - 1g
- Fiber: 4 – 6g
- Vitamin A: 2733 – 3641 IU
- Vitamin B1: 0.1 – 0.5mg
- Vitamin B2: 0.03mg
- Vitamin B3: 0.2 – 0.17mg
- Vitamin B6: 0.2mg
- Vitamin C: 12.6mg
- Vitamin E: 1.2mg
- Vitamin K: 4.4mcg
- Folic Acid: 12.6 – 13.4mcg
- Choline: 12.8mg
- Potassium: 270 mg
- Calcium 13.4 mg
- Magnesium: 15.1mg
- Phosphorus: 28.6mg
- Iron: 0.3mg
- Zinc: 0.2mg
- Copper: 0.2mg
- Manganese: 0.6mg
- Selenium: 1mcg
Researchers from Israel found that the contents of total, soluble, and insoluble dietary fibers, total phenols, epicatechin, gallic and p-coumaric acids, some minerals in persimmons are significantly higher than in apples.
The fruits of some persimmon varieties contain antioxidant and specifically flavonoid properties. Scientists are still trying to learn about these compounds, but to date, we know that they show great promise for optimizing health. Specifically most persimmons contain the tannins catechin and gallocatechin, as well as the anti-tumor compounds betulinic acid and shibuol.
The anticarcinogenic and antimutagenic potentials of tannins may be related to their antioxidative property, which is important in protecting cellular oxidative damage. Tannins are also antimicrobial. Tannins have also been reported to exert other physiological effects, such as to accelerate blood clotting, reduce blood pressure, decrease the serum lipid level, produce liver necrosis, and modulate immune responses.
In traditional Chinese medicine, the fruit is also believed to regulate “chi“.
The raw fruit is used to treat constipation and hemorrhoids. As such, it is not a good idea to consume too many persimmons at once as they can induce diarrhea.
If cooked, the fruit is used to treat diarrhea. The opposite effect of the raw and cooked fruit is due to the change in the osmotic balance. In the raw fruit, the sugar may loosen the bowels, whereas in the cooked fruit, the tannin content may help with diarrhea.
I recommend eating the Fuyu raw. I can’t imagine distorting that amazingly delicious taste with any kind of heat, although the fruit is eaten cooked in some dishes. They are also commonly dried.
To prepare, simply wash the fruit thoroughly and then there is a choice of how one wants to cut it. I typically recommend cutting it in half, from the bottom up. This way specifically because at the top, the fuyu has the vegetative sepal or calyx, which is pretty tightly fixed to the fruit. Hence, upon cutting it from the bottom up, when one gets to the top leafy part, you can break off one half of the fruit and then the leafy part is easy to break off the other half.
With that in place, I then recommend to cut the halves up into quarters/slices or just eat the halves as is. There are no pits or seeds of any kind to make eating the whole fruit uncomfortable in any way. Generally peeling is not needed, unless one is not sure of the pesticide use on the fruit.
The fuyu can also be used in smoothies and purees, in which case the peel should be removed as it is tougher than some peels. It is also a great addition to any fruit or even vegetable salad.
Here is my video demonstration of how to work with the Fuyu persimmon:
Buying and Storage
You can buy the fuyu soft and ripe and eat right away or buy them hard for later use. The fuyus will ripen on their own at room temperature over a period of several days. They are generally speaking not a fast ripening fruit like strawberries or bananas. Hence an unripe bunch can last weeks. However, once ripe they do not keep well and thus should be eaten quickly.
Refrigeration is not necessary and may actually ruin the fruit.
Generally speaking, it is best to eat the fuyus when they are fully ripe and soft, which is when their sweet taste reaches its optimal peak. They are typically found in some stores in North America from late fall, through winter and into early spring. One can typically find them more easily in ethnic markets, where the demand for them is high.
So the next time you are at your local supermarket, take a good look around the produce section, as lurking somewhere between the fruits, there may be a Fuyu persimmon waiting for you to take home to indulge in the most luxurious fruit taste you may have ever had!