Several years ago, I discovered a pair of persimmon trees growing on my property. It was fall and their leaves had nearly all dropped but suspended on their branches were plum-sized orange fruits. Having never seen a persimmon tree before, I was intrigued and investigated. This is what I’ve learned about persimmon trees.
The fruits of the persimmon tree are classified as berries. The trees can reach up to 40 feet in height, depending on the variety, and turn varying shades of red in the fall. The fruits, orange orbs that range from plum-sized to peach-sized depending on variety, ripen in the late fall, after the leaves have dropped. Both the leaves and the fruit and bursts of color perfect for autumn scenery
Persimmon trees can be broken into several categories. They can either be native-growing or Oriental. They can also be classified as astringent or non astringent. Let’s look at these categories more closely.
Native Persimmon Trees
Persimmon trees native to America are predominantly in the southeast part of the country. They reach 40 feet at maturity and are quite cold hardy, withstanding temperatures of 20 degrees below zero. Native persimmon trees produce either all male flowers or all female flowers making a second tree necessary for pollination. It’s a good thing I have two! The persimmon fruit is mal, seedy and astringent with native varieties such as Early Golden, Garretson and Miller. Fruits should be allowed to ripen fully before eating.
Oriental Persimmon Trees
The Oriental persimmon was introduced from China in the mid-1880s. The tree is somewhat smaller than native varieties but the fruit is larger, less seedy and in some varieties, nonastringent. A drawback to Oriental varieties is they are not as cold hardy. Temperatures of 10 degrees can kill them. Some good varieties are Fuyu, Jiro and Eureka.
Astringent vs Nonastringent
Astringent fruit is tough and dry, making it unpleasant to eat. As the fruit ripens, it becomes softer and juicier. Common lore has it that these fruits should be allowed to remain on the tree until after the first frost. The truth is you just have to monitor them. Sometime between late September and late November, they will have ripened enough to taste good. The nonastringent varieties soften and are edible earlier their counterparts.
What to do with your persimmons? They have a unique flavor that lends itself well to cookies, breads and puddings. So plant a tree and enjoy the fall colors and the delicious fruit.