Persimmon fruit (Diospyros kaki) or the commonly known Japanese fruit (Japanese Persimmon or Japani fruit) is native to China. Worldwide the top 5 producers of this fruit in 2011 were China, Korea, Japan, Brazil and Azerbaijan followed by Italy, Israel and Pakistan. This information I have gathered from Wikipedia.
The porters have offered us this fruit while trekking to GHNP and on our way, we saw some trees with the last few fruits hanging in the apple orchards around the Tirthan valley. The fruit is fleshy, sweet and you can eat almost 95% of it. The fruit looks like a tomato. I enquired more about the same but no one could give me further details on it. My obvious question was “why it is called a Japanese fruit”. Well, the question might look little silly considering the fact that Chinese and other countries have almost evaded our daily lives but it is not quite common to at least fruits which we grow locally. In my recent visit to Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, I heard someone talking about Japanese kikkar plant and if I recall well now, the naturalist was mentioning that it was not a good decision taken by the park authorities to introduce Japanese kikkar in the sanctuary. Instead they should have planted more fruit bearing trees found locally. So I was curious to understand the Japanese link to this fruit and its other benefits.
So, I started searching on the web to know more about this fruit, common in Himachal but less popular in rest of India. A report in Hindu, published in October 2002 gave some water to my thirsty curiosity. The report says:
It is(persimmon fruit) regarded as the national fruit of Japan, and several improved cultivars (varieties) have been developed there. In India, it was introduced by European settlers in the early part of last century. Now it is confined to small pockets as home trees or in orchards in Jammu and Kashmir, Coonoor in Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh and hilly tracts of Uttar Pradesh and in northeastern India.
Although, I am from Assam, I have not seen this fruit being cultivated in Assam. Most probably, it is found in the other northeastern states like Sikkim or Arunachal.
*image source: http://skilletchronicles.com/content/a-persimmon-to-love/
As far as the nutritional values go, 100gms of persimmon fruit contains 70 calories or little more as against 52 calories in the same quantity of apple. Probably this is why the porters were carrying this fruit instead of apple. I have taken the example of apple as it is the most common fruit and both grows hand in hand in the kullu valleys. Nutrition summary- persimmon vs apple (per 100gms) – carb 18.59g against 13.81g, fat 0.19g against 0.17g, protein 0.58g against 0.26g in apple. The fruit also contain higher level of dietary fiber, sodium, potassium, magnesium, iron as well as calcium in comparison to apple. In many blogs I have found people referring this fruit to mango in terms of taste. But to me, this fruit has its own flavor and cannot be compared to any other fruit.
“Himachal Pradesh is expecting a bumper harvest of the exotic persimmon with the trees literally drooping under the weight of the luscious fruit even though unfavorable weather through the season hit other crops like apple and cherry” – a report from a popular newspaper published in October 2009. If I go by this report and other few which are related to this one, persimmon – whether we consider it as exotic or not, is definitely an alternate to apple growing Himachal communities. The Indian persimmon (Diospyros peregrina) is native to coastal West Bengal. It is relatively small and has an unremarkable flavor and better known for its medicinal uses (Wikipedia). Probably this is why some had to import the Japanese version to eat as fruit.