The American Persimmon is the one fruit that is ripe and tastes the best after being kissed by frost. Tasting the fruit before it is ripe will pucker the mouth as the fruit is very astringent. However, after the fruit has experienced even a light freeze and is soft and pliable most will agree, ‘it is the fruit of the gods’.
The American Persimmon
The American Persimmon, Diospyros virginiana, is native to the Eastern United States and can be found from Maine to Florida . Diospyros in ancient Greece meant ‘food of the gods’. Compared to the Japanese persimmon the American variety is higher in vitamin C and calcium.
The fruit is eaten fresh, spooned from its skin with the texture of pudding. Persimmons are used to make pudding, pies, cakes and ice cream. Mitchell , Indiana holds a Persimmon Festival each September that celebrates all things persimmon. www.persimmonfestival.org
The wood of the persimmon tree is dark like ebony. It has been used to manufacture billiard clubs, textile shuttles, long bows, wood flutes and was once used to make the wooden heads of golf clubs.
The American Persimmon versus the Japanese variety
The American persimmon is native to the United States although it is unknown if it originally arrived here from China . The fruit is oblong and astringent and eaten when soft. The Japanese variety is round and eaten hard like an apple and is not astringent.
Growing American Persimmons
Purchase persimmon trees at a local nursery that specializes in native trees or go online to find the trees. www.nuttrees.net or www.ediblelandscapeing.com Persimmon trees take 7-8 years before producing edible fruit so take that into consideration when deciding which size trees to order. Most persimmons need a second tree for pollination so check with the nursery on varieties.
Prepare the hole by digging a hole 3x that of the tree’s root ball. Amend the soil by adding well rotted manure, compost or peat moss. Persimmon trees need a ph between 6.2 and 6.8 so it is wise to take a soil test and amend the soil as needed for the proper ph.
Water well at planting and for the first couple of weeks. Then water over any dry periods. Don’t fertilize the first year. Add several inches of mulch around the base of the tree to conserve moisture and prevent weeds from growing.
With a little time, effort and patience your persimmon tree will reward you with a life time of food, beauty and shade.
Source; University of Maryland Extension Service www.hgic.edu