A little known fruit – the Persimmon.
As we arrived at the Pick Your Own Orchard, a group of Chinese tourists were just leaving with their boot of their car packed to the brim with bags of Persimmons. “$300 worth of Persimmons they just purchased” explained the Ross, the owner of the Shiziyuan Persimmon Orchard.
The kids and I watched as they drove off and we too grabbed our plastic bags to start picking, but I explained carefully, we will not be picking $300’s worth, just half a bag full for now shall do.
For us, it certainly is a fruit not so familiar to our fruit bowl, and many have not heard nor tasted a Persimmon before.
It is not a surprise however, that the Persimmon is very highly regarded in the Asian culture with a near religious following, being Japan’s national fruit and originating from China. Being bright reddish in colour and shaped like a round Chinese lantern, they symbolise luck and often used for festive decorations and they are often given as lucky presents to newlyweds to symbolise eternal love. They are also often planted in temples as it is said four virtues – long life, sheltering birds, giving shade and freedom from insects and pests.
In the western world however, the persimmon has remained more of a home gardener sort of fruit. But why not change that? Persimmons are such a versatile fruit and easy to grow. They are really reliable croppers and mostly disease free. And provide a beautiful backdrop with their leaves turning spectacular shades of fiery red and burst of orange after their harvests in late autumn – even in the mildest climates. And did you know that Persimmons are technically considered a berry?!! Maybe a Persimmon tree in your backyard is not a bad idea? When slightly unripe, they have an apple-like crunch with a sweet and slight nutty flavour and when fully ripe they become a juicy, sweet, syrupy basket of goodness and this is what our Japanese and Chinese friends are obsessed with.
There are two main types of Persimmon, astringent and non-astringent. Historically all Persimmon were astringent and not edible until they were completely ripe. Because of their astringent nature, they could also not be transported or kept very well, until in the 1960’s when Israeli plant breeders developed (often believed by accident) the first non-astringent Persimmon. It meant that Persimmon could be eaten while still firm and shipped practically anywhere in the world (and stored for months). Today non- astringent Persimmons are the norm and grown worldwide, the most common type of non-astringent Persimmon in the Fruyu.
Persimmon tea leaves are also said to have superb health benefits. They are high in fibre and high in tannins which can help digestion. They also have properties that can help prevent high blood pressure. In parts of Japan, the leaves are used to wrap sushi as they have antiseptic properties.
A trip out to the Persimmon Farm is definitely worth the trip out not, not just for a foodie adventure but to have a good old chat to Ross, who as it turns out, grew up on a big farm, not far from our base here at the Vineyard Cottages, he has a huge wealth of local knowledge, he worked at the historical dairy farm in Helensville and he can tell you many stories of local happenings and of course is super passionate about anything Persimmons! Ross has been on this property for over 20 years now and has opened his orchard to the public for the last 20 years. This ANZAC Day was his busiest day yet! Find him at 152 Rimmer Road, Helensville open for Pick Your Own from ANZAC Day till June (if the birds don’t get to the Persimmons first).