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Are Persimmons Better Than Apples?

Their botanical name, Diospyros, is Greek for "food of the gods," but their sweet taste isn't the only thing that's celestial about persimmons. They're power-packed, too: rich in vitamin A, potassium, fiber, and disease-fighting phytochemicals lutein and lycopene, as well as other antioxidants. They even outrank apples. A recent study pitted persimmons against apples in a head-to-head comparison, and found that persimmons had twice as much fiber, and significantly higher levels of potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, and manganese.

Research found that a persimmon a day could help fight heart disease because their polyphenols (antioxidants) help prevent bad cholesterol from accumulating in your arteries. "The more mature they are, the more flavonoids they have. So you should eat them when they have their prettiest color and are truly ripe," says Barry Swanson, PhD, a professor of food science and nutrition at Washington State University. Another new study from Korea has found that eating plenty of persimmons, among other fruits, leads to a 57 percent lower risk of precancerous colon polyps in women.

Persimmons are popping up on menus in dishes like the spinach salad with persimmons and caramelized pecans, and and sweet-and-sour persimmons.

Fresh persimmons start arriving in grocery stores later this month, and peak in November and December. But some specialty markets carry dried persimmons all year long. With their glossy orange-red skin, they look like a cross between a red apple and a yellow tomato.

Two types of the fruit were brought here from China and Japan in the mid to late 19th century, and now grow primarily in California. The Hachiya persimmon is acorn-shaped and soft, with a tangy-sweet flavor when it's ripe. And the Fuyu is smaller, rounder, and more tomato-shaped, with a firm texture and sweet taste.

Choose Fuyus that are firm and crisp like an apple; you can eat them skin and all. With Hachiyas, to get the best flavor, go for ones that are completely ripe and soft. Either way, look for deeply colored fruits—without blemishes—displayed in individual nests because they bruise easily. You can ripen a persimmon at room temperature, then refrigerate it for up to 3 days.

So what do you do with a persimmon?

  • Enjoy them raw, on their own, or with cheese or ice cream.

  • Use mashed-up persimmons in spice cookies, breads, cakes, or muffins.

  • Toss a cut-up persimmon in a salad of bitter greens with toasted pecans or walnuts and vinaigrette.

  • Scoop out the ripe flesh, heat it in a saucepan with a little olive oil, and use it as a glaze over chicken, duck, fish, or pork.




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