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Persimmon leaves are available from spring through fall.
Persimmon trees are in the Ebenaceae family. They can be divided into three different categories, such as Kanzen Amagaki (sweet persimmon), Fukanzen Amazaki (fruits become sweet when seeds appear inside) and Kanzen Shibugaki (astringent persimmon). Kanzen Amagaki, or sweet Persimmon was improved upon by the Japanese. At one time, there were over 1000 different persimmon trees in Japan, now there are only 300 different varieties.
Persimmon leaves are green from spring to summer and in the fall they change to a beautiful red/orange color with green and black dots. When they are steeped into a tea, the tea is meant to be sipped gently and its complex flavor and aroma savored. The color of Persimmon Leaf tea is orange that changes to a brown color as it cools. The taste is bitter with a hint of sourness and some sweetness when the tea cools down.
Persimmon leaves are high in fiber and they contain tannins which can help digestion. They have properties than can help prevent high blood pressure and it is said that Persimmon leaves have 30 times more vitamin C than oranges. They also possess pro-vitamin C which is not destroyed easily by heat, allowing the vitamin C to survive the brewing process.
Young green persimmon leaves are used for tempura. Leaves collected in the spring are used for making persimmon tea. They are also used for wrapping sushi in Japan. Persimmon tea is caffeine free. Persimmon leaves have a bactericidal and preserving effect on the food wrapped within.
In the Nara area of Japan, chefs wrap sushi with Persimmon leaves and it has become a famous dish called Kaki No Ha Zushi in Japanese. Persimmon leaves appear in a story from the Edo era (1603–1867): a fisherman from Wakayama prefecture 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. 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. His sushi has become famous outside of Nara and it can be seen at kiosks in train stations, in bento boxes and in some restaurants in Japan.
Persimmon trees are originally from East Asia; they came to Japan in the 7th century. Wakayama prefecture, Nara prefecture and Fukuoka prefecture are the main prefectures that grow persimmon trees. Persimmon leaves have been used to make tea and used as an effective herbal remedy for centuries in Japan. The name, Kaki (Persimmon) came from the Japanese word for red (Akaki).