Ring in the New Year with a Purifying Persimmon Salad
Ring in the New Year with a Purifying Persimmon Salad - The Persimmon's Symbolic Significance
The persimmon holds deep symbolic meaning in many cultures around the world. In China, the persimmon is known as shi zhi and is associated with generosity, wisdom, and longevity. Ancient Chinese writings dating back to the 8th century describe the persimmon as one of the "three friends of winter," along with pine and bamboo. The hardy, late-ripening fruit came to represent resilience, perseverance, and triumph over adversity. Persimmons were commonly given as gifts to wish friends and family a long and prosperous life.
In Japan, the persimmon or kaki is known as the "fruit of the gods." The wide, open calyx is said to resemble the Rising Sun, making it an important symbol of the Japanese imperial family. Buddhist monks cultivated persimmon trees at their temples, believing the vibrant orange fruits represented illumination and enlightenment. During the harvest festival each autumn, it's customary to hang decorative kaki ornaments to invite good luck for the coming year.
Native American tribes like the Cherokee developed their own rich folklore around the persimmon fruit. Ripe persimmons reminded them of the hunters' full moon in October. Green, unripe persimmons were used to predict the weather—hard, green fruits meant an impending harsh winter. Persimmon wood was prized for making spoons and loom shuttles. Women were said to go to the persimmon trees to receive answers to questions about their future husbands.
In the American South, the persimmon became a symbol of the harshness and unpredictability of life for enslaved people. Unripe persimmons are mouth-puckeringly tart, but turn soft and sweet when fully ripe. The persimmon served as a reminder that patience and faith were needed during difficult times. Writings from abolitionists described the persimmon as a "slave fruit" that nourished many souls.
Beyond folklore and legend, the persimmon fruit contains scientific symbolism as well. Its Latin name Diospyros means "food of the gods," referring to its ambrosia-like sweetness when fully ripe. The persimmon is symbolic of nature's wisdom—producing tannins when unripe to deter animals from eating the bitter fruit before the seeds are mature and ready for dispersal. Only when the tannins diminish does the flesh become sweet and irresistible. To many, this represents enlightenment that comes after persevering through life's challenges.
What else is in this post?
- Ring in the New Year with a Purifying Persimmon Salad - The Persimmon's Symbolic Significance
- Ring in the New Year with a Purifying Persimmon Salad - Toss in Some Walnuts for Omega-3s
- Ring in the New Year with a Purifying Persimmon Salad - Add Some Peppery Arugula for a Nutrient Boost
- Ring in the New Year with a Purifying Persimmon Salad - Top with Goat Cheese for Creamy Texture
Ring in the New Year with a Purifying Persimmon Salad - Toss in Some Walnuts for Omega-3s
Walnuts are one of the best plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids, making them a perfect addition to this nutrient-dense salad. While fatty fish like salmon tend to get all the attention when it comes to omega-3s, walnuts pack a substantial amount as well. Just one ounce of walnuts contains 2.5 grams of plant-based omega-3s in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
ALA is an essential fat that our bodies cannot produce on their own, so we need to obtain it from foods. Omega-3 fats provide wide-ranging benefits for heart, brain, eye, and joint health. Studies show that eating more foods rich in omega-3s lowers inflammation, reduces triglycerides, and even helps relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety. Because the typical Western diet tends to be low in omega-3s, adding more walnuts and other plant-based sources like flaxseeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds is a smart nutrition move.
When it comes to the stellar nutrient profile of walnuts, omega-3s are just the beginning. Walnuts are also packed with manganese, copper, magnesium, and biotin. They’re an excellent source of vitamin B6 and contain higher amounts of antioxidant vitamin E than other nuts. This powerful pairing of oils and antioxidants is likely what makes walnuts so effective at reducing oxidative stress and inflammation in the body.
Beyond health benefits, walnuts add great texture and flavor contrast to salads. Their crunch stands up well against tender greens while their mild, earthy taste balances the sweetness of fruits like persimmons and pomegranates. Chopped walnuts sprinkled on any salad provide that perfect finishing touch. For this persimmon salad, adding just a quarter cup of coarsely chopped walnuts provides a nice nutty crunch.
Many top chefs and recipe developers sing the praises of walnuts in salads. Chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill says, “Walnuts and salad have a natural affinity. The crunch of the walnuts plays against the supple leaves of lettuce, and their earthy flavor finds an ideal backdrop in the herbs and vinaigrettes salads typically contain.” Food writer Heidi Swanson includes toasted walnuts in many of her signature salads, noting their versatility and how they “add protein, healthy fats, and warm flavor” to liven up greens.
Ring in the New Year with a Purifying Persimmon Salad - Add Some Peppery Arugula for a Nutrient Boost
Beyond adding a punch of peppery flavor, arugula provides an array of nutrients to give this salad a health boost. Among salad greens, arugula stands out as an exceptionally nutrient-dense choice. Just one cup of raw arugula contains only 5 calories yet packs over 100% of the recommended daily intake for vitamin K. It’s also a good source of folate, provides about half your daily vitamin A and vitamin C needs, and contains a wide range of protective phytonutrients.
Arugula’s peppery, mustard-like flavor comes from unique sulfur compounds called glucosinolates. These compounds have been shown to have powerful anticancer effects, especially against lung and colorectal cancers. Some research indicates arugula may also have benefits for cardiovascular health by reducing inflammation, LDL cholesterol, and platelet aggregation. The vibrant dark green color of arugula leaves signals the presence of carotenoid antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin. These two important nutrients promote eye health and have been linked to reduced risks of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
Beyond amazing nutrition, arugula adds the perfect flavor contrast and textural crunch to balance out the sweet, soft fruits in this salad. The peppery zing makes your taste buds perk up and keeps the salad from being one-dimensional. As chef Paul Kahan notes, “Arugula gives you great spice, so pairing it with sweet and acidic components like shaved fennel, citrus, stone fruit or melon makes each bite pop.” Food writer Mark Bittman agrees about playing up arugula’s spice, saying, “Toss it with bland lettuces like Boston, Bibb or oak leaf...and use a lemony dressing to balance the slight radish-like bite of the arugula.”
For this vibrant persimmon salad, baby arugula works perfectly to offset the sweetness of the persimmons and pomegranates. The small, tender baby leaves add a delicate, soft texture against the crunch of the walnuts. Their bright green color against the orange and red fruits makes for an eye-catching presentation. To add even more visual appeal, look for arugula with dark red-tipped leaves or add some radicchio for splashes of ruby red.
Beyond salads, arugula’s bold flavor allows it to shine in many dishes. It makes a tasty pizza topping, adds a kick to pastas or risottos, and can be lightly wilted into frittatas and omelets. Blending into pesto, folding into tacos with black beans and corn, or scattering over crostini appetizers are all delicious ways to enjoy arugula’s nutrient density.
Ring in the New Year with a Purifying Persimmon Salad - Top with Goat Cheese for Creamy Texture
A final indispensable component that brings this salad together is a topping of creamy goat cheese. The smooth, rich texture plays beautifully against the crunch of the greens and nuts. Beyond amazing flavor, goat cheese offers some unique nutritional virtues to make this salad a well-rounded healthy dish.
Many people are surprised to learn that goat cheese is lower in fat and calories than most other cheeses. Part of this stems from goat milk having smaller, more easily digestible fat molecules than cow milk. Goat cheeses like chevre have around 75 calories and 6 grams of fat per ounce, compared to 100 calories and 9 grams of fat for an ounce of cheddar. The smaller fat droplets in goat milk also allow it to be more rapidly absorbed and metabolized by the body. This gives goat cheese and goat milk products a more favorable impact on cholesterol levels compared to other dairy products.
Another benefit of goat dairy is that it lacks the A1 casein protein found in cow dairy that can trigger inflammation or digestion issues for some people. Goat milk has more medium-chain fatty acids like capric and caprylic acid, which have antimicrobial properties. Thesehealthy fats get directly absorbed in the small intestine rather than being stored as body fat. Some research indicates goat dairy may benefit gastrointestinal health by promoting probiotic gut flora.
When shopping for goat cheese, look for varieties that are lower in sodium for maximum health benefits. A sprinkling of crumbled chevre or soft goat cheese adds rich creaminess and a tangy zing to salads and other dishes. The light chèvre harmonizes beautifully with the sweet persimmons, tart pomegranate seeds, peppery arugula, and crunchy walnuts in this salad. The creaminess perfectly balances the textures and flavors.
Well-known food writer Mark Bittman is a big fan of adding goat cheese to salads, calling it “an easy way to dress up greens, add protein, and satisfy your craving for creaminess.” Celebrity chef Bobby Flay notes that goat cheese “has a delicious tart and tangy flavor that pairs well with the other ingredients.” Chef Sara Moulton says crumbled goat cheese can “transform a side salad into a main course salad...it has a satisfying creaminess.”