By Bang Tran
FoodCorps Service Member with Georgia Organics and Captain Planet Foundation
Unlike much of the western world, desserts in many east Asian countries often take the form of fruits, beans, and other foods infrequently considered on the dessert plate. Growing up, I very rarely had anything sweet and rich after dinner— mom and dad would always cut a mango or maybe serve adzuki bean pudding. One of my favorite dessert fruits (and all-day snack) is the Japanese persimmon, called trái hồng in Vietnamese. Sweet, moist, and a beautiful bright and vibrant orange, the taste of it is always a nostalgic reminder of my more carefree days.
However, sweet and beautiful are only descriptors I’d reserve for perfectly ripe persimmon. Unripe persimmon are pale green and more importantly, they’re extremely astringent. Filled with a biomolecule called tannin, eating an unripe persimmon is similar to eating a bag of very bitter, very tart, and very dry sand. Tannins will suck the moisture out of your mouth and leave a most unpleasant feeling lingering for quite a while. It’s essentially pure, concentrated misery in the form of a tiny little fruit.
Tannins help protect fruits from predation as well as help regulate plant growth. Generally, an animal that eats unripe plant fruits does no good for the plants; seeds inside have not developed completely and any seeds that are eventually passed by the animals may not be viable, thus reducing the spread of that particular species of plants. The breakdown of tannins and increase in sugar are both processes that are important to signifying mature fruits. Sweetness is attractive to animals, so many plants use their fruit sugars to signal the maturity of the seeds inside, ready to be excreted by passing animals that munch on the fruit.
Moral of the story? Don’t eat unripe persimmon and wash ripe ones since tannins can still be present on the outside of the skin. As evidence, I’ve asked the Captain Planet Foundation office to help me prove it by subjecting themselves to the horror of unripe persimmon.
Please enjoy their misery, as I very much did when I served the fruit to them (most were unaware of what the unripe fruits taste like).
Avery – Graphics
Bang – FoodCorps Service Member
Chris – Graphics
Jordan – Administrative assistant
Lauren – FoodCorps Service Member
Leesa – Executive Director
Sarah – FoodCorps Service Member