The persimmon is the fruit of trees of the genus Diospyros in the ebony wood family. They are high in glucose, with a balanced protein profile, and possess various medicinal and chemical uses.
It originated in China and is widespread in northeast Asian countries. They are sweet, slightly tart fruits with a soft to occasionally fibrous texture. Cultivation of the fruit extended first to other parts of east Asia, and was later introduced to California and southern Europe in the 1800s. It has its best flavor when allowed to rest and soften slightly after harvest.
The heart shaped Hachiya is the most common variety of persimmon. They contain very high levels of soluble tannins and are unpalatable if eaten before softening. The tomato shaped persimmon is most commonly known as Fuyu.
Persimmons are eaten fresh or dried, raw or cooked. When eaten fresh the peel is usually peeled off and the fruit is cut into quarters or eaten whole like an apple. The raw fruit is used to treat constipation and hemorrhoids, and to stop bleeding. The fruits of some persimmon varieties contain the tannins catechin and gallocatechin, as well as the anti tumor compounds betulinic acid and shibuol.
Horses may develop a taste for the fruit growing on a tree in their pasture and overindulge, making them quite ill. It is often advised that persimmons should not be eaten with crab meat, nor should they be eaten on an empty stomach.
Though persimmon trees belong to the same genus as ebony trees, persimmon tree wood has use in the manufacture of objects requiring hardwood. Persimmon wood was heavily used in making the highest quality heads of the golf clubs known as woods until the golf industry moved primarily to metal woods in the last years of the 20th century. Over the last few decades persimmon wood has become popular among bow craftsmen, especially in the making of traditional longbows.
It is said that you can predict the winter by taking the seeds out of some persimmons and then slicing the seeds. The shape that shows up the most inside each seed will tell you what kind of winter to expect. The three shapes resemble three eating utensils. A Knife shape means there will be a cold icy winter, as the wind will slice through you like a knife. A Spoon shape means there will be plenty of snow for you to shovel. A Fork shape means there will be a mild winter.