Persimmons (Diospyros virginiana, D. kaki) are members of the Ebenaceae (Ebony) Family. The genus name, Diospyros comes from the Greek, dios and pyros, meaning “grain, ” hence the meaning “God’s grain.” In Europe, persimmon is known as “Sharon’s fruit.”
Persimmons are believed to be native to China who introduced it to Japan. The virginiana species is native to the US. The Algonquin Indians called persimmon, putchamin, which means “dried fruit,” as persimmons were dried and stored for winter food.
Persimmons are sweet and cooling and help tonify the yin (moistening fluids) of the body. Persimmons are a good source of beta-carotene, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. Persimmons have been used to lubricate the lungs and strengthen the spleen and pancreas. They improve energy and contain enzymes that help damaged cells and foreign microbes be broken down. Persimmons have a special affinity for the large intestines and heart. Persimmons have been used to treat bronchitis, catarrh, cough, diarrhea, dysentery, goiter, hangover, hemorrhoids, hiccoughs, hypertension, mouth sores, pleurisy, stomachache, and ulcers. In Thailand, persimmons are eaten to rid the body of hookworms.
Persimmons also contain tannins, which is part of their astringent flavor. The tannins get converted, as the fruit ripens, till there is virtually none left. Persimmons are best after a frost. Look for plump fruits with an intact green cap. Allow ripening at room temperature. Ripening can be hastened if they are placed in a paper bag along with some ripening bananas. Light colored persimmons taste sweet only when mushy. The darker persimmons can be eaten before becoming overly soft.
Enjoy persimmons by themselves, peeled and added to salads or used in jams, chutneys, puddings and pies. Persimmon juice has been used as a gargle for sore throat.