Persimmons (Diospyros spp.) Grow nicely in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 through 10. The trees may reach 25 feet tall and wide with drooping branches with 7-inch-long shiny green leaves. The brightly colored fruit is filled with beta-carotene and vitamins A and C. Some fun facts about persimmons make these fruits more interesting to grow and eat.
Persimmons originated in China, where over 2,000 different cultivars were developed. Eventually the tree spread into Korea and Japan. By the middle of the 1800s, the persimmon tree made the journey across the Pacific Ocean to California. The seeds came in 1856 with Commodore Perry from Japan, and entire trees were imported to California in 1870.
Persimmon flowers appear in the spring to one-year-old growth. Cream-colored flowers are female while male flowers are pink. Many persimmon trees are either male or female, but there are plants with both female and male blossoms. Several persimmon cultivars are parthenocarpic, which produces seedless fruit without pollination.
Two Main Types
Fuyu persimmons are a non-astringent selection, which is eaten fresh. This kind of persimmon stays fresh for up to three weeks when stored at room temperature. Hachiya persimmons are soft to the touch when ripe and are astringent, and they are used for cooking. This astringent variety only stays fresh for a few days.
Unripe Japanese persimmons are filled with tannin, which is used to brew sake and maintain wood in Japan. The little, non-edible fruit from wild persimmon trees in Japan are crushed and mixed with water. This solution is painted on paper to repel insects. This solution is also considered to give cloth moisture-repellent properties.
Persimmon fruit need curing before they are edible. Purdue University notes that in the Far East, persimmons are commonly covered with bamboo mats and left to chill in near freezing temperatures. Another method is to put the fruit in covered seams and smoke them with burning animal dung. For your little home grower, put the newly selected fruit in a sealed container for a couple of days with apples or bananas. The ethylene gas created by the bananas and apples cures the persimmons.
The American persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) is also known as possumwood. The little fruit produced by this tree is simply edible after exposure to a hard freeze in the fall. American Indians would dry and pick the wild persimmons, later baking the dried fruit into loaves of bread.