Top 5 Surprising Foods You May Have Never Tasted: Persimmons
When persimmons show up in the produce market, you can be sure fall is on its way. Persimmons were introduced to North America from Japan during the late 19th century. Interestingly, persimmons grow naturally in the eastern United States; however, they were never widely cultivated here, since the American variety is much more astringent than its sweet Asian cousin.
They may appear strange, but peel back the skin and you're in for a delectable treat. Not only do they taste great, persimmons have an impressive array of nutrients: Beta-carotene, fiber, vitamin C and copper: all available in a single fruit.
The nutritional value of persimmons is remarkable. Get this: One persimmon fruit gives you almost 72 percent of the Daily Value of vitamin A from beta-carotene, about 25 percent of your daily recommended intake of fiber and over 21 percent and 9 percent of the Daily Value for vitamin C and copper, respectively.
The amount of beta-carotene contained in two persimmons could help women over the age of 50 avoid breast cancer if eaten every day. In one study, women who consumed at least 3.7 grams of beta-carotene from food daily had up to 68 percent less risk of getting breast cancer than women who ate the least beta-carotene. The beta-carotene in persimmons may also prevent infections such as colds and flu.
In one study, researchers found that the carotenoids and fiber in persimmons lowered cholesterol levels in laboratory animals. Fiber has also been shown to be beneficial in lowering blood sugar levels in diabetics as well as promoting digestive health.
The vitamin C in persimmons acts as an antioxidant. Antioxidants block the cell damage caused by free radicals. If left unchecked, free radicals can cause a host of problems, including heart disease and cancer. Vitamin C is also beneficial for relieving the symptoms of a cold and fatigue. It may also help keep your blood pressure in check.
Copper is essential for keeping the tissues in your body healthy. Low copper levels cause tissue breakdown, which then prompts the weakening of your heart, blood vessels and kidneys. Though persimmons aren't the best food source of copper, they certainly contain a noteworthy amount.
Persimmons reach full color before they are fully ripe. That may be why persimmons arrive to market before they are ready to eat. Look for a brilliant orange-red color inside and out. The persimmon's surface should be firm, its skin glossy. Be sure that the flesh is free from cracks and bruises. A fully ripe persimmon is soft to the touch, with slightly wrinkled skin. Look for persimmons from September through December.
Storage and Handling
Persimmons require careful handling due to their thin skin and tendency to bruise. To keep a ripe persimmon fresh, place the fruit in a plastic bag and store in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. They don't keep for very long, so plan to eat as soon as possible.
If the persimmon you purchased isn't ripe, allow it to ripen at room temperature. You can speed up the process by placing it in a paper bag with an apple. Check it daily.
Persimmons are great for eating right out of hand. With a sharp knife, cut around and into the leaf base to remove it. Score the persimmon skin lengthwise into 4 sections, and peel or pull back the skin. Their sweet, crisp texture is also great for using in fruit trays or salads.
You can also glaze halved persimmons with a light coating of honey and place under the broiler until slightly tender. To make a tasty exotic sauce for fruit, frozen yogurt or angel food cake, press persimmons through a sieve and add superfine sugar and a squeeze of lime juice to taste.
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