Benefits of Persimmons, a super food to discover: tips and recipes
I sincerely believe that Mother Nature does it on purpose to supply us with a particular fruit or vegetable at a certain time of the year.
Persimmons or apple of the orient (as they are called because of their geographic origin), are the perfect way to compensate for what autumn can “take away” from the immune system.
Sweeter than honey (without any exaggeration) and with their wonderful color that perfectly represents the season, persimmons are true super foods that rival multi-vitamin pills: a single fruit contains more than 50% of the recommended dose of Vitamin A, essential for strengthening the immune system, great for being ready to face the classic autumn ailments.
Benefits of Persimmons
Besides being rich in Vitamin A (65mg/100g), it contains satisfactory doses of Vitamin C (70mg/100g), E, B6, D and also Vitamin B12 (1). That’s why Diospyros kaki (this is their scientific name) are also beneficial in the treatment of skin disorders, inflammation in general, but also very useful at the vascular and hormonal level: just think that they even help to prevent the oxidation of bad cholesterol and the incidence of diabetes mellitus, thanks to a large content of first-class antioxidants and other bioactive components: carotene (β-cryptoxanthin, lycopene, β-carotene, zeaxanthin and lutein), tannins, polyphenols, phenolic acids (ferulic acid, p-coumaric acid and gallic acid) sterols, flavonoids, proanthocyanidin, anthocyanidin etc.
Their antioxidant, anti-thrombotic, plasma lipid reducing, immuno-modulating and anti-mutagenic action is so intense (2) that several clinical studies are trying to deepen the knowledge: in fact it is hypothesized their utilization in the treatment of difficult diseases, such as degenerative disorders like atherosclerosis and cancer.
The mineral salts contained inside are equally enviable: good doses of calcium, potassium, manganese, copper and iron (3) complete the pedigree of this incredible fruit.
All this makes us better understand how wise the ancients were: without laboratory analysis and chromatograph, they had already called it “Dios-pyros – The food of the Gods“: (Dios=Gods and pyros=grain or food) as it is still known in Portugal today; and do you want to know its name in Turkish? “The apple (or date) of paradise”. Isn’t that wonderful?
Another benefit of persimmons, although I know for a fact that my readers won’t care much about it, is that it alters and reduces the rate of absorption and metabolism of alcohol: in other words, it improves hangover symptoms(4).
Is there ever something without at least one flaw?
Persimmons are no exception (or maybe they are): their only flaw is that they are sweet, very sweet; so you can’t (or rather, shouldn’t) abuse them.
But here’s the kicker! According to in vivo studies conducted on rats, the rich content of dietary fiber and antioxidants present in the peel, demonstrates anti-diabetic properties: it even stimulates the partial or complete restoration of plasma aspartate amino transferase (AST) and creatinine levels (two important indicators that sufferers with liver and kidney dysfunction know well) (5).
So if you are sensitive to these issues, my advice is to always eat persimmons with their skins on.
It must also be said that in some people (fortunately very few) the food of the Gods can create allergic reactions, so be careful if you have never eaten them before: watch out!
How and when to buy persimmons
Persimmons are not among the fruits normally richer in pesticides residues; probably because before ripening they are very hard and rich in tannins; nevertheless leaves and the tree itself can attract insects and diseases, favoring the use of agrochemicals.
Consequently, if you do not know the producer, buying them organic would be a wise thing to do to obtain all the benefits of persimmons, as consuming them with the skin is also a wise thing to do.
Persimmons can be found in different stages of ripeness: hard as rocks, soft enough, too ripe to be eaten right away; just like avocados, they are climacteric (to learn more and how to speed up and slow down the process of avocado ripening you can read here).
To make them ripen quickly just put them with a ripe apple or banana inside a paper bag; on the contrary, to slow down the ripening process, you should store them in the fridge. So buy them according to your needs: for example I always buy them both a little hard (some varieties like Fuyu, are hard even if well ripe: I actually mean the other variety, Hachiya, those hard when they are unripened) and ripe, so I never run out. However keep in mind that it is better not to venture with unripe ones: they contain soluble tannins and when they come in contact with saliva, they solubilize, generating molecules responsible for the typical astringent sensation… or better to say “mouth-puckering” action.
Ideas for how to use them in the kitchen
1 – Natural
Eat persimmons like any apple if it is hard enough; or in case it is very ripe, with a teaspoon. But I recommend you always combine a nut (such as walnuts): the fats present in dried nuts will help both to better assimilate fat-soluble substances and to avoid glycemic fluctuations, thanks to the slowing down of digestion.
2 – Jam
Use persimmons as if it were a jam, even without cooking, simply after blending them, for your breakfasts or snacks healthy and fit.
3 – Fake tiramisu
Following my friend Shaul’s suggestion, I really enjoyed this vegan version made with local vegan cookies, Italian coffee, plant-based cream, cocoa, persimmon puree and dark chocolate chunks (or use yogurt as in this squash tiramisu recipe).
I recommend not sugaring the coffee to moisten the cookies: everything is already way too sweet!
4 – Pudding with cocoa
You can make a pudding with just two ingredients.
Blend 1 very ripe persimmon and 1 tablespoon of cocoa until you get a smooth puree and let it harden at least 3 hours in the fridge, in a pudding mold. Excellent pistachio grains to garnish it: those with allergies can use coconut or nothing at all.
5 – Dried or pestil (fruit leather)
I love making pestil (the fruit leather) out of well-ripened persimmons.
Read here to learn this amazing preservation technique: remember though that to make “persimmon skin”, you don’t even need to boil the puree. Even dried, you can get many of the benefits of persimmons.
6 – Cocktail or mocktail
Given its negative influence on the absorption of alcohol, you can also break the rules: make a special gin and tonic with persimmon puree, tonic water, ginger, pomegranate seeds and lemon peel; or an autumn spritz; or simply a cocktail with water kefir (see here how to prepare it), persimmon puree, spices such as star anise, cinnamon and juniper!
Enjoy your creations and happy revolution to all
1) Pachisia J. Persimmon (diospyros kaki): apple of the orient: a review. Int J Health Sci Res. 2020; 10(3):129-133
2) Lee Jin Hwan, Lee Yong Bok, Seo Woo Duck, Kang Su tae, Lim Jong Woo and Cho
Kye Man, “Comparative studies of Antioxidant activities and Nutritional constituents of Persimmon Juice (Diospyros kaki l. cv. Gapjubaekmok)”, Preventive Nutrition and Food Science, 17, (2015): 141-151
3) Marques Alba-Mir, Domingo Ana, Cervera Luisa M, Guardia de la Miguel, “Mineral
profile of kaki fruits (Diospyros kaki L.)”;Food Chemistry, 172, (2015):291-297
4) George, A.P. and Redpath, S. (2008) Health and medicinal benefits of persimmon fruit: A review. Advances in Horticultural Science, 22 (4). pp. 244-249.
5) Lee, S.-O., Chung, S.-K. and Lee, I.-S. (2006), The Antidiabetic Effect of Dietary Persimmon (Diospyros kaki L. cv. Sangjudungsi) Peel in Streptozotocin-induced Diabetic Rats. Journal of Food Science, 71: S293-S298. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2621.2006.tb15656.x