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A Japanese persimmon is a tree-growing fruit from the genus Diospyros. As the name implies, this persimmon variety is an Asian native where it is known to grow wild in the mountainous regions of China and Indonesia, as well as various other parts of Asia. Unlike versions native to America, different cultivars of Japanese persimmons are widely grown throughout the world. Also called kaki or Chinese plum, a fully-ripened persimmon fruit has a sweet flavor that can be used in a variety of culinary ways.
There are more than 800 varieties of Japanese persimmon trees cultivated in Japan. Some of the more popular types include Fuyu, Jiro, and Hachiya. The Hachiya variety is referred to as an astringent type due to its acidic or unfavorable flavor when eaten before it becomes soft. The Fuyu and Jiro persimmons are a non-astringent type that offers a sweet flavor at maturity. The Hachiya variety is a good alternative to American persimmons in recipes such as persimmon pudding and cookies, while Fuyu and Jiro types are preferred for eating fresh from the tree.
With the exception of the seeds, all parts of the Japanese persimmon can be eaten. Many recipes such as puddings and preserves call for the persimmon pulp which is made by pureeing and straining the fruit. Like many red and orange fruits and vegetables, raw persimmons are rich in beta carotene. One average size persimmon also offers approximately 55% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin A and 21% RDA of vitamin C as of 2011.
With immigration to the west coast of the United States, particularly California, Japanese persimmons such as the Fuyu have seen increasing popularity outside of its native regions. The Fuyu variety resembles a tomato, has little to no seeds, and is generally ready for harvesting in the late fall. The shape of the fruit varies from spherical to a more flat shape, depending on the type. The trees often produce fruit while still young and provide a bountiful harvest.
A Japanese persimmon tree can exceed 50 feet (15 meters) in height and span more than 15 feet (4 meters) wide, depending on the variety. The deciduous foliage is typically green with hints of blue, which turn a shade of orange in autumn. The trees exhibit showy blooms and later produce green fruit that turn a glossy orange-red. Some types of Japanese persimmon trees produce dark fruit that are sweet even before fully ripening.
The fruit can be harvested once it has developed and turned a vibrant orange-to-red color. The astringent types are generally inedible, however, until they have also been allowed to soften on the tree. Soft persimmons should be used within 7 to 10 days after harvesting. Most types of Japanese persimmons can be preserved by drying or freezing, or processed into jams and jellies.
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