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Izu persimmons are a small to medium-sized varietal with a round, square, to slightly flattened shape. The persimmon’s skin is smooth, semi-thin, and taut with a faint sheen, showcasing vibrant shades of bright orange to golden-orange hues. The fruit is also capped with 3 to 4 flat green-brown dried leaves, having a papery and leathery consistency. Underneath the surface, the flesh is aqueous, dense, and crisp with a soft and tender texture. The flesh is generally pale orange and is either found seedless or contains a few oval seeds. Izu persimmons should feel heavy for their size and have a rich, mild, and sweet flavor with honeyed, sugary nuances.
Izu persimmons are available for a few weeks in the mid to late fall.
Izu persimmons, botanically classified as Diospyros kaki, are early-ripening fruits belonging to the Ebenaceae family. The non-astringent variety grows on dwarf, deciduous trees and was created in the mid-20th century as a cultivar that would ripen earlier in the season before other persimmons. Izu persimmons are also known as Izu kaki and are viewed in Japan as the first variety to kick off the persimmon season, arriving in markets several weeks before fuyu persimmons. The fruits are favored for their colorful nature, sweet flesh, and consistent cropping, and the variety is a pollination-constant cultivar, meaning their flesh color will not change when the seeds are pollinated. Izu persimmons are available fresh for a short season and can be eaten straight off the tree, providing a crunchy, sweet flavor. The persimmons are cultivated commercially in East Asia, but the variety is also likely to be seen as a home garden fruit tree, valued for its ornamental nature.
Izu persimmons are an excellent source of fiber to regulate the digestive tract and vitamin A to improve skin complexion, protect against vision loss, and maintain overall organ health. The persimmons are also a good source of vitamin C to strengthen the immune system while reducing inflammation and contain other nutrients, including vitamins B6, E, and K, potassium, folate, manganese, phosphorus, and copper.
Izu persimmons have a sweet, honeyed flavor and tender, crisp consistency well suited for raw and cooked preparations. The fruits can be consumed straight, out of hand, or they can be sliced into salads, mixed into fruit bowls, or displayed on charcuterie boards. Izu persimmons can also be blended into smoothies, pureed into jams, or combined into sauces and other preserves. In Japan, persimmon jam is popularly slathered on toast, spooned over ice cream, or made into a glaze for cakes, cheeses, and crackers. Izu persimmons can also be incorporated into some cooked preparations, but the soft nature of the fruit’s flesh easily breaks down into a silky puree. The persimmons provide sweet flavors to tarts, puddings, bars, bread, scones, muffins, and baked goods. Try freezing Izu persimmons and consuming them as a frozen treat. Izu persimmons pair well with nuts such as walnuts, pecans, and almonds, maple syrup, vanilla, honey, spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves, and fruits such as pomegranate seeds, bananas, pears, and apples. Whole, unwashed Izu persimmons should be immediately consumed once harvested for the best texture and flavor. The fruits can also be stored in a plastic bag and kept in the refrigerator for a couple of days.
In Japan, persimmons are featured in the famous folk tale “Saru Kani Gassen,” meaning “The Crab and the Monkey.” The ancient fable has been passed down between generations since the Edo period and is a tale often read or acted out by children at school, in learning groups, or at home. The story chronicles the meeting of a crab and monkey. The crab had a rice ball while the monkey had a persimmon seed, and the mischievous monkey persuaded the crab to trade the ball for the seed. The monkey ate the rice ball, and the crab planted the seed, waiting many years for the tree to mature and produce fruit. When the large persimmon tree was finally fruiting, the monkey climbed into the branches and began eating all of the crab’s fruit. The crab was furious and scurried around the tree, yelling at the monkey. The monkey grew tired of listening to the crab, grabbed a hard, unripe persimmon, and hurled it at the crab. In original versions of the story, the crab was killed, but in modern-day variations, the crab was simply hit on the head and deeply hurt. The story continues and follows the actions of the crab’s children, who sought revenge against the monkey in honor of their mother crab. The children eventually seek out the help of a chestnut, bee, and mortar, who eventually burn, sting, and crush the monkey as acts of retribution. This well-known folktale may seemingly have a violent ending, but stories centered around the concept of revenge were common in ancient Japanese culture. This custom was practiced until around 1873 when populations agreed that vengeance should not be practiced, and many of the tales were altered to have less violent endings.
Izu persimmons are native to Japan and were developed at the Agriculture Orchard Institution of Kouzu in the Shizuoka Prefecture in 1955. The variety was created from a cross between fuyu and kouzu, two non-astringent persimmons, and was registered as an official cultivar in Japan in 1970. Izu persimmons were introduced to the United States sometime after the early 19th century and are mainly planted as a home garden cultivar. In Japan, Izu persimmons are commercially produced in the Fukuoka Prefecture and are also grown on a smaller scale in the Shimane and Wakayama Prefectures.