Locally-grown persimmons hitting shelves

Persimmons used in a Greek feta salad. Photo. Supplied.

One of New Zealand’s most on-trend fruit, locally grown persimmons, are about to hit the markets.

Ian Turk, manager of the New Zealand Persimmon Industry Council, says local growing operations have gone from strength to strength as New Zealanders discover the versatility of this colourful treat.

“Initially persimmons were grown commercially for export markets, Japan in particular, but these days a much larger volume of fruit is sold domestically,” says Ian.

“In fact, we’re excited to have seen an increase of 20 percent in just two years in the New Zealand market.”

Whilst homegrown persimmons are enjoyed by Kiwis, they’re just as popular overseas. Around 12,500 tonnes, at a value of $10 million, are set to be exported to Australia, South-East Asia, Japan, the United States and China this year.

“We’ve had an excellent season this year and are recovering well from the impact of a tough 2020 season,” says Ian.

“The combined issues of a Covid lockdown two weeks before harvest, lengthy drought conditions and air freight costs that quadrupled due to the pandemic meant some significant challenges.

“We’re heading into the 2021 season with greater confidence, not quite back to normal, but nearly there.

The persimmon is actually a berry fruit and packs a considerable nutritional punch as a source of dietary fibre, magnesium, vitamins A and C and potassium.

While the persimmon originated in China, it has been grown in New Zealand since the 1870s, predominantly now in the Gisborne and Auckland regions. Locally-grown persimmons are in New Zealand supermarkets from May to June and 5+ A Day project manager Carmel Ireland says now is the perfect time to enjoy them.

“Fruit and vegetables are always best enjoyed in season,” says Carmel.

“New Zealand persimmons are ripe when crisp and are so versatile. They can be eaten like an apple as the perfect on-the-go snack or used in a variety of dishes like salads, salsas, cheese boards and more.

“Use them to bring a seasonal change to your salads or just add them to your breakfast, they pair beautifully with other autumn favourites such as apples, pears, cinnamon and citrus. I also love to bake them with a touch of honey and serve them with Greek yoghurt for a healthy dessert.

“Despite their sweet taste, persimmons are relatively low in calories and high in fibre making them a great healthy eating choice for the whole whānau.”

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