By DAVID WALL
In my preteen years, I would sit in a persimmon tree (Diospyros kaki) eating the fruit, which is very sweet when ripe. I later gave up the practice after eating some of the not-yet-ripe fruit, which is almost unbelievably bad! The difference between ripe and unripe is that until the entire persimmon softens to a jelly-like texture, it isn’t ripe!
Persimmons have been cultivated for several thousand years. Before sugar cane, persimmons were the food sweeteners. It originated somewhere in China before eventually spreading throughout SE Asia, and as far north as Japan and Korea.
Marco Polo mentioned it, and Commodore Perry brought it to the United States from Japan. Today, there are numerous cultivars, and the long-lived trees can produce up to 400 pounds of fruit per season.
Persimmons mature late in the fall and can stay on the tree until winter. Unfortunately, fruit picking is a time-consuming effort, as the fruit doesn’t fall when ripe. Therefore, each fruit has to be felt and picked by hand. Fruit starting to ripen is orange colored and picked, as fully ripened fruit will damage very easily.
Green fruit will not ripen at all.The persimmon tree (15 to 60 ft. in height) is round-topped and is often used in landscaping as an ornamental tree, which is where it attains its 60’ size. In a natural environment, the tree can exceed 100’.
It usually stands erect, but can sometimes be crooked or have a willow tree appearance. Most cultivars as either male or female, but our above-mentioned cultivar is self-reproducing, as it can produce bisexual flowers. The wood is very dense making it good for such things as golf clubs, billiard cues, and furniture. The thick bark is brown to mostly black with deep short furrows.
David Wall has a bachelor’s degree in forestry and a master’s degree in business management, which includes 269 college semester hours total with roughly 125 hours in earth science. After several years as the volunteer vegetable garden manager for NTCC, he retired and currently works as a gardening activist who writes a weekly column and lectures throughout northeast Texas and southeast Oklahoma regarding soil health, plant intelligence, the dangers of GMO and global warming. He is a member of several major agriculture organizations.
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