Aussies mourning the end of the summer fruit season can look forward to a bountiful supply of Australia’s most exotic fruit, persimmons, available from February through to May.
The recent rains have created favourable growing conditions generating some of the best persimmon tree health seen in years. The golden orchards have now fully recovered from the drought and the growers are predicting an exceptional season full of high quality fruit.
“The two persimmon varieties, sweet and original, are often confused as one but they really do differ in taste, texture and appearance. Sweet persimmons are round and stout with a slightly flattened top like a tomato and can be eaten like a crunchy apple but the original kind is a larger, more elongated, heart-shaped fruit and eaten only when it is completely ripe and the flesh is soft and jelly-like.
Both varieties of persimmons have such a beautiful, unique flavour that forever eludes me to describe, so people just need to be adventurous and try one.
They go very well in South-east Asian style salads, as the ‘sweet’ element, together with hot, sour and salty.
A favourite autumn recipe involves mixing the pureed, gooey fruit from an original persimmon through muffin or cake batter for a delicious flavour combination.
The golden orange gems are a good source of vitamin C and beta carotene, fat free and high in fibre. In fact, a sweet persimmon contains almost twice the amount of dietary fibre in an everyday apple and has higher levels of many minerals and antioxidants.
Original persimmons have been cultivated in Australia for almost 150 years but the sweet variety was only introduced in the late 1970s. Whilst the market here is still young, the oriental charms have been grown for thousands of years, considered native to China, Japan, Korea, Burma and the Himalaya.
Approximately 2500 tonnes of persimmons are produced in Australia annually with Queensland the highest producers. Other key growing areas include coastal New South Wales, the Goulburn Valley in Victoria and the Murray Valley in South Australia as well as some areas of the south west corner in Western Australia.
Loaded up with luscious, sweet, juicy Persimmons from Jeffers Farm Wombye Queensland Australia
Persimmon fruit nutrition facts
Sweet, delicious persimmon fruits are rich in health promoting nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants that are vital for optimum health. Botanically, the fruit belongs to the family of Ebenaceae of the genus: Diospyros. Scientific name: Diospyros virginiana.
This delicate oriental fruit is native to China. It spread to Japan very long ago and later was introduced to California during the middle of nineteenth century.
Persimmon is a multi-trunked or single-stemmed deciduous tree, which grows up to 25 ft. in height. They grow best in areas that have moderate winters and relatively mild summers.
Persimmon trees classified broadly into two general categories: those that bear “astringent fruit” (whilst unripe) and those that bear “non-astringent” fruits. An astringent cultivar, which is commonly cultivated in Japan known as “Hachiya,” is high in tannins and must be allowed to ripen fully until it attains jelly-soft consistency before fit to eat. A non-astringent persimmon, on the other hand, contains less tannin and can be eaten while it is crispy as in apples. Astringency can be removed by treating the fruit with carbon dioxide or alcohol.
During each season, the tree bears numerous fruits that vary by cultivar from spherical to heart to flatten or squash in shape. They also greatly vary in size from as little as a few ounces to more than a pound. The color of the fruit varies from light yellow-orange to dark orange-red. The entire fruit is edible except for the seed and calyx.
Astringent varieties: Eureka, Hachiya, Saijo, Tamopan, Tanenashi, Triumph, etc.
Non-astringent varieties: Fuyu (Fuyugaki), Gosho/Giant Fuyu/O’Gosho, Imoto, Izu, Jiro, Maekawajiro, Okugosho, Suruga, etc.Astringent varieties: Eureka, Hachiya, Saijo, Tamopan, Tanenashi, Triumph, etc.
Health benefits of persimmon fruit
- The fruit is low in calories (provides 70 calories/100g) and fats but is rich source of dietary fiber.
- Persimmons contain health benefiting phyto-nutrients flavonoid poly-phenolic anti-oxidants likecatechins and gallocatechins as well as important anti-tumor compound betulinic acid. Catechins are known to have anti-infective, anti-inflammatory and anti-hemorrhagic (prevents bleeding from small blood vessels) properties.
- Fresh persimmons contain anti-oxidant compounds like vitamin-A, beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, zea-xanthin and cryptoxanthin. Together, these compounds functions as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging and various disease processes.
- Zea-xanthin, an important dietary carotenoid, selectively absorbed into the retinal macula lutea in the eyes where it is thought to provide antioxidant and protective light-filtering functions; thus, helps prevent “Age-related macular related macular disease”(ARMD) in the elderly.
- They are also a very good source of vitamin-C, another powerful antioxidant (especially native Chinese and American persimmons; provide 80% of DRI). Regular consumption of foods rich in vitamin C helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals.
- The fruit is good in many valuable B-complex vitamins such as folic acid, pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), thiamin…etc. These vitamins act as co-factors for numerous metabolic enzymatic functions in the body.
- Fresh Persimmon fruits also contain healthy amounts of minerals like potassium, manganese (15% of DRI), copper (12% of DRI), and phosphorus. Manganese is a co-factor for the enzyme, superoxide dismutase, which is a very powerful free radical scavenger. Copper is a co-factor for many vital enzymes, including cytochrome c-oxidase and superoxide dismutase (other minerals function as cofactors for this enzyme are manganese, and zinc). Copper is also required for the production of red blood cells.