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Persimmon leaves are small to medium in size and broad, ovate, or lanceolate in shape, averaging 12-17 centimeters in length and 5-10 centimeters in width. The leaves grow in an alternate pattern and are flat, glossy, and stiff with smooth edges that taper to a point on the non-stem end. When young, Persimmon leaves are slightly yellow and green, and as they develop they transition to bright green from spring to summer. In the fall, they change to vibrant shades of red, yellow, and orange with green and black dots. Persimmon leaves have a mild, green flavor with a slightly bitter and sweet taste.
Persimmon leaves are available spring through fall.
Persimmon leaves, botanically classified as Diospyros kaki, grow on deciduous trees that can reach up to ten meters in height and are members of the Ebenaceae family along with ebony. Multiple species of trees produce persimmons, and these species differ in flavor, texture, and appearance. Persimmon trees are predominately grown in China, Korea, and Japan, and at one time over one thousand different varieties were grown in Japan. While persimmon trees are mainly recognized for their fruit, the leaves of the tree are also used in traditional medicine to help reduce symptoms of inflammation and boost immunity.
Persimmon leaves are high in fiber, vitamin C, amino acids, magnesium, and contain tannins which can help digestion.
Persimmon leaves are most commonly used as a tea. The leaves can be steeped in boiling water in both fresh or dried forms, and the tea is caffeine free, slightly bitter, and somewhat of an acquired taste. Young green Persimmon leaves are also used for tempura, and larger, more mature leaves are used for wrapping sushi in Japan as the leaves are believed to have a bactericidal and preserving effect on the food wrapped within. Persimmon leaves will keep for a couple of days when stored fresh in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
In the Nara, Japan, Persimmon leaves are used to wrap sushi in the famous Japanese dish called Kaki No Ha Zushi. Legend states that the dish came from a story from the Edo era (1603–1867) about a fisherman from the Wakayama prefecture that was suffering from paying high taxes to the government. He wrapped his sushi in Persimmon leaves to sell in order to pay off his tax, and when he went to sell his sushi, there was a summer festival in the village. Everyone at the festival liked his sushi because Kaki No Ha Zushi could last for many hours during the hot summer days because of the leaves preserving effect. His sushi became famous outside of Nara and can now be seen at kiosks in train stations, in bento boxes, and in some restaurants in Japan.
Persimmon trees are native to China and spread to Japan and Korea in the 7th century. They were then spread to Europe and the United States in the mid-1800s. Today persimmon trees are widely cultivated, and the leaves can be found at specially grocers and fresh markets in Asia, Europe, and the United States.