USDA-ARS scientists explore opportunities for persimmon snacks

By Stephen Daniells contact

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / DiyanaDimitrova
© Getty Images / DiyanaDimitrova
As consumers increasing seek out healthy snacks, scientists at the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) are working on bringing persimmon into the limelight.

Persimmon (Diospyros kaki​) is a sweet, flavorful fruit that is mainly sold in California. The vitamin C-rich fruit varies in shape and color depending on the cultivar. Or example, Fuyu and Hachiya – the most common market types – are light yellow-orange with a tomato- or pumpkin-like shape and dark orange with an acorn-like shape, respectively.

California produces 99% of the US persimmon crop. The US exported 7.4 million pounds of fresh persimmons in 2016 (valued at $3.6 million), while it also imported 7.4 million pounds (valued at $5.7 million), according to the USDA Economics Resource Service.

Scientists at ARS's Western Regional Research Center (WRRC) in Albany, CA have been exploring ways to dry persimmons and make dried chips. Working with colleagues from ARS National Clonal Germplasm Respiratory in Davis, CA, and scientists from the University of California, they have been select the best cultivars for commercial and home drying.

Our of 40 different cultivars tested, the best cultivars for making dried chip-style persimmons were Fuyu, Lycopersicon, Maekawa Jiro, Nishimura Wase, Tishihtzu and Yotsumizo, according to data published in the journal Food Science & Nutrition​.

Study details

Led by Rebecca Milczarek, the scientist used hot-air drying to produce persimmon chips, and then convened a trained sensory panel to evaluate the results. The scientists also surveyed over 100 consumers of 21 unique samples.

The results indicated that flavor was secondary to taste and texture in the dried persimmon chips.

“The astringency type (astringent, nonastringent, variant) did not appear to inherently predict whether the dried chips made from a given persimmon cultivar would be preferred by consumers, since examples of all astringency types could be found throughout the ranking lists in both years,” ​wrote the researchers. “Thus, this attribute should not be used to screen persimmon cultivars for their suitability for hot-air drying.”

“[T]he six persimmon cultivars most suited for hot-air drying (for fruit harvested commercial ripe at any time during the season) are the following: ‘Fuyu’, ‘Lycopersicon’, ‘Maekawa Jiro’, ‘Nishimura Wase’, ‘Tishihtzu’, and ‘Yotsumizo’. This list includes cultivars that are already established in the U.S. market as well as cultivars that have not yet seen widespread commercial propagation.”

Source: Food Science & Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1002/fsn3.537
“Synthesis of descriptive sensory attributes and hedonic rankings of dried persimmon​ (Diospyros kaki sp.)”
Authors: R.R. Milczarek, et al.

Related topics: R&D

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