native to: the most popular varieties are native to China, although other areas also have native varieties
in season here: Novemberish
The persimmons you find in stores are most likely to be one of the Japanese varieties. There is a persimmon native to the U.S. but it’s mostly grown as an ornamental. The most common varieties are Fuyu, which is shaped like a flat tomato and is the best choice for peeling and eating raw, and Hachiya, which is more suited to baking and has a pointier shape. Other general types include the Indian Persimmon, Black Persimmon, and Date-Plum Tree. Technically, persimmons are berries. They’re all in the Diospyros genus, members of the Ebenaceae family and related to ebony. Persimmon wood is in fact sometimes used to make things like longbows, wooden flutes, and eating utensils, but it can be brittle and difficult to work with.
Persimmons are rather rare, commercially speaking, mostly because they’re best when very ripe. Some varieties are sweeter and reach edibility before becoming completely squishy, others are more astringent and should be cooked or eaten with a spoon.
Persimmons are rich in vitamins A, B6, C, and E, manganese, copper, phosphorus, and fiber. They also provide lots of phytonutrients, flavonoids, and antioxidants. They’re good for the skin, mucous membranes, and eyes, protect against mouth, lung, and breast cancers, boost the immune system, and generally help regulate the whole body. They even fight lipid uptake, which helps with weight loss.
Persimmons can lower blood pressure, which is great news if yours is high, but can be dangerous for those with low blood pressure. They’re also pretty high in fructose, which is turning out to be not as healthy as we’ve been told once you get into the higher dosages. Very high consumption of persimmons can lead to the formation of woody lumps in the stomach called bezoars, but we’re not likely to eat that many around here.