The world of the Persimmon goes way beyond the reddish-orange variety found at your local supermarket. Persimmon has been cultivated in China for thousand of years and they have more than 2,000 varieties. Because the growing area in the United States is restricted to the warmer climates and that fact that Persimmons were not seen here until the mid 19th century, we do not have that wide a selection, but there are some that make you think differently about what a persimmon should be.
Persimmon (Diospyros kaki)is also called Oriental Persimmon, Japanese Persimmon and Khaki. The tree is hardy in USDA zone 7 to 10 and grows up to 25 feet tall with a similar or larger width. The tree produces egg-shaped leave up to 7 inches long and 4 inches wide. They start out a yellow-green and turn a dark green, In the fall, they become yellow, orange and red.
The fruit itself can be light yellow orange or a dark orange red and different shades in-between. Plant in full sun and make sure it is far enough away from other plants so that the air can circulate around it. Give the tree a well-drained loamy soil. The tree will survive a short drought but, if possible, give it water regularly. You will get larger and better fruits. Use a fertilizer that is low in nitrogen.
Now for the more unusual varieties. Black persimmon (Diospyros digyna) grows from 30 to 40 feet tall and is hardy in zones 10 and 11. This variety is not drought resistant.
Mabolo (Diospyros Discolor) is also known as velvet apple. The plant gets its name from the red-brown, velvet like fur that covers the skin. The fruit has a pink flesh with an unpleasant odor. It is native to the Philippines.
Date-plum(Diospyros Lotus) is native to subtropical southwest Asia and southeast Europe. The tree produces one of the smallest fruits and they have a taste that is a combination of plums and dates. It is also one of the oldest of all the varieties.
Texas Persimmon(Diospyros texana) is one variety that is native to North America. The tree grows from 20 to 40 feet tall. It produces a black to green fruit up to 1 inch in diameter. The fruit contains a large amount of seeds relative to its small size, which makes it not so popular with humans, but the birds love it and will eat as much as they can.
American persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) can be grown further north than the other varieties. It is hardy as far north as zone 5. It is also one of the tallest, topping out at about 50 feet. The fruit is ripe and ready to eat when it falls out of the tree as you shake it.
Take a look at the little label on the fruit the next time you go to store. It will tell you want kind of persimmon it is and the country of origin.