In case you hadn’t noticed, I get a little obsessed over pumpkins this time of year. During one of my last pumpkin adventures, I decided I needed to find some more seasonal fruits and vegetables to obsess about. Lucky for me, the very next day the folks at Ellwood Thompson posted on their website that they had just gotten in some local persimmons. I was intrigued so I stopped by the bin on my next trip there.
Of course I brought a few home. After some preliminary research on the internet, I determined that these delicate little fruits were far from ripe. They hibernated in a paper bag on the windowsill while they got nice and ripe over the next few days.
This gave me plenty of time to find out what I had gotten myself into.
I discovered that persimmons come in astringent and non-astringent varieties. I also determined that I had bought a mixture of the two (oops!). The fuyu, non-astringent persimmon, is short and squat like a tomato. They are considered non-astringent because they ripen faster and can be eaten sooner in the ripening process. Fuyus can be consumed while the fruit is still relatively firm but are still edible when it becomes soft. The hachiya, astringent persimmon, is longer and heart shaped. You have to be careful with these persimmons because they are inedible before ripening. They have a high content of tannins and can taste very bitter if eaten too early. I found a few accounts of people who ate astringent persimmons before they were ripe and they consequently experienced an allergic reaction on their tongues and cheeks. I was starting to get nervous. I let those persimmons hang out for awhile until I was absolutely sure they were ripe.
Persimmons can be eaten raw, and one popular way to enjoy them is with their tops cut off so that the flesh may be scooped out with a spoon. They are also added to a variety of dishes, including pies, cakes, puddings, and even curries. These fruits, whose botanical name diospyros means “food of the gods,” are rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, and beta carotene. I was surprised to find out that persimmons are a source of lycopene. They are not packed with it, but they contain a significant enough amount of lycopene that this fact was mentioned in several of the articles I read. There is a lot of information about lycopene in this article at World’s Healthiest Foods.
I am familiar with lycopene as a chemical present in many cancer-preventing superfoods, like tomatoes and pink grapefruit. However one thing that really stood out to me was the role of lycopene in the treatment of exercise-induced asthma. Researchers have found that a lycopene-supplemented diet may help the reduce the instances of exercise-induced asthma in people who are already at risk for this condition. As a lifelong sufferer of exercise-induced asthma, I was overjoyed to hear that tomatoes could help me conquer that next resistance level in the 25th minute of my RPM cycling class at the gym, right when my lungs are usually begging me to take it easy. I’ll take all the help I can get!
When the persimmons were finally done ripening, I tried one raw and tossed two into a batch of cookies. The raw persimmon was sweet and fleshy. It tasted like a cross between a mango and an apple, and the consistency was that of a large grape or an overripe mango. This is what the fuyu looked like with its top off (uh oh).
With the two hachiyas, I made persimmon cookies. I adapted the recipe from AllRecipes, substituting 1/2 cup of dried cranberries for the raisins, and reducing the amount of chopped walnuts from 1 cup to 1/2 cup. You may view the original recipe here, and I have copied my version below for your convenience.
Persimmon Cookies with Cranberries and Walnuts
- 2 ripe persimmons, pureed
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Dissolve baking soda in persimmon pulp and set aside.
- Sift flour, spices and salt together, set aside.
- Cream together butter or margarine and sugar until fluffy, beat in egg and persimmon. Stir in dry ingredients. Stir in nuts and cranberries.
- Drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes.