Foods Indigenous to the Western Hemisphere


Diospyros virginiana

By Jeremy Trombley


The name persimmon is an adaptation of the word putchamin, which is the name given to the fruit by the Algonquin Indians. They are native to eastern North America, but has relatives in Asia and Mexico. The fruits are small and tomato shaped with redish orange skin. In general they are highly astringent, however, some varieties are less astringent when unripe and develop their sweetness sooner than others. Unripe persimmons may also contain the tannin Shibuol which polymerizes in the stomach and attaches to other stomach material to form bezoars, which may require surgery to remove. Persimmons can be ripened off the tree by exposing them to sunlight for several days. Alternatively, they can be processed by freezing and soaking in alcohol. This breaks down the cell wall and neutralizes the tannins in the fruit. Additionally, adding a small amount of baking powder to the pulp will reduce its astringency.


Formerly an important fruit of eastern North America, the persimmon is now consumed infrequently, largely because of preference for its Asian relative, the kaki (D. kaki). Native Americans of eastern North America would pick the fruit and sonsume it when ripe or dry and save it for the winter months. When Europeans arrived in the region, they quickly adopted the fruit as well, and used it to make preserves, puddings, breads, as well as beer and wine. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, attempts were made to develop improved varieties of persimmon. However, the introduction of the kaki put an end to these attempts.


Davidson, Alan. The Oxford Companion to Food 2nd Ed. 2nd ed. Oxford University Press, USA, 2006.

Persimmons: Fruit of the Gods.” Marin County Cooperative Extension 18 Apr 2005. 6 Feb 2009