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Persimmon season is happening now

The spectacular color of persimmons are on display in the fall season now through December. Nearly all the persimmons cultivated in the U.S. are grown in California. But as pomegranates become increasingly popular, farmers are devoting less crop space to persimmons and growing more pomegranates. While I adore pomegranates, crop diversity is critical for soil health and our health. Here are some tips on how to give persimmons the love they deserve.

If you've ever had a bite of an unripe persimmon of the astringent variety, you may shudder at eating them again. Rest assured, there are ways to ripen and mellow this versatile fruit, and other varieties to select from. The main varieties are astringent, non-astringent, and variant. 

Giant Fuyu persimmons

The Hachiya persimmons is very astringent and tastes of honey and melon. They're often used in baking, and should be ripe and soft before eating out of hand. Otherwise, "it dries your mouth out," says Phil Rhodes of Country Rhodes Family Farm in Tulare County. Persimmons are a highlight of the fall season on the farm. You can find his fresh produce in 15 farmers markets in California. Once ripe, "you eat it like pudding," he says. And while the peel is edible, "you don't want to touch the Hachiya until they're soft," he warns. 

To hasten ripening, expose persimmons to fruits that release ethylene gas. Store it together with fruits such as bananas. Another way to reduce astringency is by slicing the fruit and freezing for 24 hours. 

The non-astringent Fuyu is eaten out of hand like an apple. It's crunchy and can be cut up in salads. The flavor is similar to other stone fruits. You don't need to ripen these, but if you do wait, their texture will soften. These seasonal varieties are also good in chutneys and desserts. 

A third type of persimmons are the variants, known as Hyakume and others. They are non-astringent when completely brown or speckled throughout. If some parts are orange, leave them on the counter, as they may still be too tart to eat. These variants have unique names, such as chocolate (Tsurunoko), and coffeecake cinnamon (Hyakume). They taste of apple, peach, and honey.

The variant persimmons are harder to find, but prized for their sweetness, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The variant types are good for relish and salads.

Looking for recipes? Try a persimmon and seaweed salad with black sesame dressing from the Santa Monica Farmers Market .

Help with colds

Nutritionally, persimmons shine, containing more vitamin C than tangerines and an antioxidant content similar to strawberries. It’s good vitamin C content can help with cold symptoms, but only if vitamin C foods are eaten regularly. One fruit has a quarter of the fiber you need in a day, and is also high in vitamin A. The fruit is heart healthy, as it helps with arterial health, and promotes gut health because of fiber.

Sampling persimmons

Note that for individuals on a FODMAP diet pattern for irritable bowel syndrome, check with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist as to your tolerance, as they are high in fructans and galacto-oligosaccharides. 

Enjoy persimmons throughout the fall season, because when winter rolls around, their fall notes of honey, apple, and melon, will also disappear.

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