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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Friday Fruit Exploration -- Persimmon



For this week's fruit exploration we looked at persimmons. Now I will admit I only heard of persimmons a few years ago. My parents' neighbor actually grows them and gives them to my parents (or tells them to pick them when he is not at Cape Cod since he rents his house out). When we celebrated Thanksgiving, my parents brought the last couple of the season with them. The one we ate while they were here they said was among the best they ever tried.

Hazel confuses them with tomatoes however she claims to like persimmons (she does not like tomatoes). However she usually only has a few bites and then says she will eat it later and does not. There are different types of persimmons. Asian persimmons or Japanese persimmons are native to China. This is the most widely cultivated species of persimmons. They spread throughout Asia and then into Europe, California and Brazil. The fruit is edible in the firm stage but taste best when allowed to rest after harvest. They are sweet and tangy when soft. The date-plum species is native to southwest Asia and southeast Europe. It was known by the ancient Greeks as the fruit of the gods or nature's candy. Its taste is similar to a date or a plum and thus the name. The American persimmon is native to Eastern United States (and is probably the species we tried, but I am not sure). It has higher levels of vitamin C, calcium, iron, and potassium than the Japanese persimmon. It is also a food that gets the white-tailed deer through the long winter months. The black persimmon is native to Mexico. It has green skin and white flesh which turns black when ripe. The Mabolo or velvet-apple is native to the Philippines and China. It is also known as the Korean mango. The Indian persimmon is a slower growing and less flavorful species. It is known more for folk medicine. The Texas persimmon is native to Texas and Oklahoma as well as Mexico. The fruits are black on the outside unlike the Mexico persimmon which is only black on the inside. 

In general persimmons are seen as two types: astringent and non-astringent. A version of the Japanese persimmon known as the Hachiya species is the most astringent type due to the high tannin levels. The tannin levels reduce as the fruit ripens. The Hachiya must be fully ripened prior to eating. Persimmons are eaten raw, cooked, or dried. When eaten fresh they can be eaten whole like an apple or cut into slices. Some varieties are more pleasant with the thin skin peeled off first. Very ripe persimmons can have the texture of pudding inside and can be eaten with a spoon once opened. Compared to apples, persimmons have higher levels of dietary fiber, sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron and manganese. They have lower levels of copper and zinc. They also contain vitamin C and vitamin A--beta carotene. (Source)
We did our normal exploration. Hazel used her magnifying glass to check them out and drew pictures in her journal. Then she told me what to write about them.
We also found a couple of books at the library and I found some more on Amazon.

Many of these have one of two stories in them, The Monkey and the Crab (including in Japanese Children's Favorite Stories) or The Rabbit's Tail which is also called The Tiger and the Dried Persimmon. Hazel loved reading this story since the tiger was afraid of a dried persimmon. He thought it was some sort of monster. She laughed so hard that a tiger was afraid of a dried fruit. I love how a fruit exploration turns into a cultural exploration as well.

For more fruit explorations check out: