Oriental Persimmons in the Fall

November 8, 2007

Plant of the Week

David Rodriguez

Oriental PersimmonFew trees are as attractive and fruitful in the fall as oriental persimmons (Diospyros kaki). They provide wonderful dark green and shiny foliage throughout the year which then turns to an orangey, yellowish-red showcase in the fall. An added feature is their gorgeous uniquely flavored orange-red fruit. For many people with that ‘sweet tooth,’ they are not only sweet, but also high in vitamin A.

Oriental persimmons generally start ripening around late October through the early part of December. Much of the process associated in fruit development and ripening is dependent upon climate and regional characteristics. Persimmons are simply harvested by clipping and leaving the calyx which is the outer set of flower parts. The calyx sometimes looks 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 which makes it harder to eat.

What You Need to Know About Harvesting and Ripening Persimmons:

Careful handling of the fruit is very important in minimizing potential bruising. Bruising can cause brown spots. Using picking buckets and not bags will reduce damage.

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 “shelf life” for one to four months. Astringent varieties have a longer shelf life than non-astringent varieties.

Classification of Oriental Persimmons:

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.

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. A red 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. The more intense the color produced, the more astringent the fruit remains.

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.

There we go! 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.

As a fresh fruit, they are unbelievable. The taste of a fully ripened persimmon is superb-incomparable to any other fruit. Try planting two or more this year. I think they will be well suited in your orchard or home landscape.

Look for these Extension recommended varieties at your favorite garden center or nursery:

  • Fuyu (Japanese) is a medium-sized, non-astringent, self-fruitful persimmon. The fruit is red, rather square-shaped and can be eaten green. Fuyu will pollinate all other varieties.
  • Tamopan is a moderately productive, very large, orange, flat-shaped persimmon with a distinctive ring constriction near the middle of the fruit. The tree is the most vigorous and upright of the varieties grown in the south.
  • Eureka is a heavy-producing, medium-sized, flat-shaped, extremely high-quality red persimmon. The tree is relatively small and is self-fruitful.
  • Tane-nashi is a moderate producer, cone-shaped, orange-colored persimmon. The tree is vigorous and upright. The fruit stores well, and the tree makes an excellent landscape ornamental.
  • Hichiya is a large productive, cone-shaped, seedless persimmon with bright orange-red skin. The tree is upright and very vigorous. This outstanding variety makes an excellent dual-purpose, fruit-ornamental specimen.
  • Chocolate is a moderate producer with small to medium orange fruit. It is a non-astringent selection which makes an excellent pollinator.

Oriental persimmons can be grown on a wide variety of soil types. They prefer a deep, fertile, well-drained, organically enriched soil. Provide plenty of water at the initial planting and fertilize six months thereafter. Ask your local Texas certified nursery professional about more in-depth details on planting and training for the first two to three years. Persimmons also have very few major insect or disease problems. Happy Planting!!!

Remember, Learn and Have Fun!

David Rodriguez is County Extension Agent-Horticulture, Bexar County. For more information, call the Master Gardener ‘Hotline’ at (210) 467-6575 or visit our County Extension website at http://bexar-tx.tamu.edu, click under Horticulture and Gardening.

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