Oriental persimmons generally start ripening around late October through the early part of December in San Antonio and surrounding areas. Much of the process associated in fruit development and ripening is dependent upon climate and regional characteristics in all parts of the state. Persimmons are simply harvested by clipping and leaving the calyx, the outer set of flower parts. The calyxes sometimes look like leaves, and in some plants look like petals; they sometimes form a tube on a short piece of the stem that is attached to the fruit. Fruit is picked when it has attained the proper color and is still firm to the touch. If persimmons are picked before fully colored, the fruit will not ripen evenly, this will make it harder to eat.
What You Need to Know About Harvesting and Ripening Persimmons:
1) Careful handling of the fruit is very important in minimizing potential bruising. Bruising can cause brown spots that decrease marketability. Using picking buckets (not bags) and rigid bins for transporting fruit from the orchard will reduce damage.
2) Persimmons are typically graded for size and quality, and packed for shipping in one to two layer lugs (a lug is a projecting piece that is used to lift or support or turn something). Sometimes they come in plastic tray packs, in one or two layer boxes.
3) Fruit may be ripened in a warm environment (60º to 70º F) for one to three weeks. Fruit may be stored at 32º to 34º F to extend the “market life” for one to four months. Astringent varieties have a longer shelf life than non-astringent varieties.
Oriental persimmons can be divided into two classes, astringent and non-astringent (that’s puckering and non-puckering for us persimmon lovers). Astringent varieties gain their astringency from soluble tannins that disappear as the fruit ripens and softens. Non-astringent persimmons, however, can be eaten when still firm, without any astringency whatsoever. Some varieties are astringent, if the fruit is not pollinated; this is referred as parthenocarpic development which is the production of fruit without fertilization. If varieties are seeded (fertilized) they are non-astringent.
Instructions on how to eat and use the fruit should be included in packaging and displayed at the groceries. There are many untapped local markets for persimmons, besides shipments to larger urban markets.
Astringent persimmons that lose their astringency as they ripen can sometimes be slow to ripen. The process can be hastened by freezing the fruit for 24 hours. When thawed, they are both soft and free of astringency, and ready to eat. An apple can be placed with the persimmons in a plastic bag or among the ripening fruit. Ethylene gas released by the apple will speed up the ripening process. Periodic flushing with 70-90 percent carbon dioxide in a sealed chamber for one to four days will also remove astringency while maintaining fruit firmness, and can prolong shelf life if done after cold storage. Fruit treated in this manner should be tested periodically for astringency reduction by placing a cut slice on dry filter paper, previously treated with 5 percent ferric chloride. The more intense the color produced, the more astringent the fruit remains.
Persimmons are delicious whether eaten fresh, dried, or cooked. As a fresh fruit, they are unsurpassed. The taste of a fully ripe persimmon is superb, and is incomparable to any other fruit.
Persimmons can be used fresh in salads, appetizers, or as a dessert or topping, chilled or frozen. They are excellent in ice cream, with yogurt, or in smoothies. Cooked or baked, they are delicious in cakes, breads, puddings, cookies, cobblers, pies, and pastries. Persimmons also make wonderful preserves and jams.
Freezing is a popular method of preserving persimmons. They can be peeled before freezing and frozen whole or pureed in plastic containers. In this manner, they will keep for a year or more.
Drying is the other principal method of storage, especially in the Orient. Persimmons may be dried when ripe and still firm. After being peeled and either sun-dried, dried in a commercial dryer, or in an oven on low heat, they are stored in air tight containers in a cool, dark place. Persimmon pulp may also be spread on foil in a flat pan and dried into jerky. During drying, sugar crystals form over the surface of the fruit, creating an appealing product. Dried persimmons are high in dextrose and similar to dried peaches in food value. An excellent set of recipes can be found in Persimmons for Everyone by Eugene and Mary E. Griffith, published by the North American Fruit Explorers, C/O Dorothy Nichols, Route 2, Box 13, Arcola, MO 65603.
For more information on selecting and growing Oriental Persimmons in this area, visit the Bexar County Horticulture website at:
Remember, Learn and Have Fun!
David Rodriguez is the County Extension Agent-Horticulture for Bexar County. He represents Texas Cooperative Extension with the Texas A&M University System. For any landscape or gardening information, call the Bexar County Master Gardeners Hotline at (210) 467-6575,
e-mail questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit our County Extension website at http://bexar-tx.tamu.edu/.
Special Note: Listen to live broadcast of the Home & Garden Show with David Rodriguez & Bill Rohde on WOAI 1200 AM, every Saturday morning between 8:00-11:00 a.m., and call in your gardening questions at (210) 737-1200 or 1-800-383-9624. Check it out!