Persimmon (Diospyros kaki) is a native fruit of China and is also referred to as kaki, oriental persimmon or Japanese persimmon. The fruit has been in cultivation in China for centuries and comes in nearly 2,000 different varieties, including American persimmon, according to the California Rare Fruit Growers. Persimmon was introduced in the United States in the 19th century.
The persimmon fruit closely resembles tomatoes and is lobed, rounded, flattened or pointed in shape, weighing anywhere between an ounce to pound. The skin color comes in a range of reddish orange, orange or yellow shades. Oriental persimmon varieties are mostly orange and as large as medium-sized tomatoes. The smaller American persimmon is like a large cherry tomato. The whole fruit is edible except the skin, seed and calyx. Persimmons have an astringent taste that may be eased by freezing overnight and thawing. Flesh is sweet, smooth and jelly-like when fully ripe.
The fruit grows on deciduous, single or multitrunked trees with a mature height of about 25 feet. Both the foliage and the branches have a drooping growth habit. The ovate, glossy, dark green leaves are nearly 7 inches long and 4 inches wide. The white female flowers bloom during March. Male flowers are slightly tinged with pink. Though the trees are generally either all male or all female, certain varieties contain both male and female flowers.
Areas with mild winters and summers are most suited for growing persimmon. The fruit is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture planting zones 7 to 10. Fully dormant trees are cold hardy to zero degrees F. Trees start to lose foliage at 26 degrees F. Persimmons have a low chill requirement of under 100 hours. This often causes dormancy to break in early spring warm spells that can damage blooms in later occurring frosts. Persimmon trees are least adapted to desert regions. The trees also do not thrive in areas with very cold winters or in tropical regions.
Plant the tree in a well-ventilated, full-sun area. Though the tree tolerates a range of soil types, it prefers a deep, well-drained loam with a pH of 6.5 to 7.5. Water the tree regularly for good fruit production, as insufficient water can cause early fruit drop. Fertilize yearly in late winter or early spring with a 10-10-10 fertilizer at 1 lb. per trunk inch. Avoid excessive use of nitrogen. Persimmon trees have few pest or disease-related issues.
- California Rare Fruit Growers, Inc.: Persimmon
- "Landscaping with Fruit"; Lee Reich; 2009
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