The Japanese or Chinese persimmon, also known as the Kaki, is an unusual fruit that is produced by the Persimmon Tree. The large orange fruits can weigh a pound each, and are highly prized by connoisseurs for their delicious and complex flavors. Unlike many other fruits, persimmons are eaten only after the fruit has become completely soft – before that they have a bitter and astringent taste. But once fully ripened they have a sweetness and a rich flavor reminiscent of pears and apricots.
The Persimmon Tree is easy to grow and it is frost hardy to 10 degrees, or to 0 degrees if grown in a sheltered location. It makes an attractive shade tree and has no pests or diseases of any significance. It will grow in almost any soil, provided it is not constantly wet, and when established the tree is resistant to moderate drought. Since these trees are self-pollinating, you only need one to have a bumper crop of your own exotic fruits, straight from the garden.
Besides being a great choice as a tree to grow your own fruit, the persimmon tree is also attractive in the garden, with large, glossy leaves that turn brilliant shades of red in fall, even in warm areas. As the fruit ripens late it is usually still on the tree after the leaves fall, making your Persimmon Tree look like it is festooned with orange Christmas decorations.
The Persimmon Tree has been grown in China for thousands of years and truly wild trees are not known. It is widely grown in China, Japan and Korea, but it has increasingly been grown in Europe and America, especially California, in recent decades. Commercially available fruit is often not properly ripened, so by growing your own you can be sure of having the very best fruit for your family. The fruit is rich in vitamins and iron, so it is very healthy to eat.
The persimmon forms an attractive, upright tree with slightly weeping branches that has a similar form to an apple tree. It will grow 30 to 40 feet tall in time, if not trimmed or trained. The leaves are large, glossy and dark green in color, turning blazing reds and oranges in fall. There are separate male and female flowers on the tree. Female flowers are about an inch across, yellow, and are born singly. Male flowers are a little smaller, pinkish and often in threes. Trees are self-fertile, so fruit will develop well without needing to grow a second tree, unlike some other fruit crops. The fruit is large, oval or rounded in shape, with four large green leaf-like structures where it meets the stem.
Trees usually begin to flower and produce fruit three years after planting. The fruit ripens in late October or November, and it first it is hard. Once it has turned a bright orange color you can harvest the fruit and store it until it becomes soft, or leave it to soften or the tree. Once the fruit is completely soft it is ready to eat. The flesh is deliciously flavored, and can be eaten with a spoon. It is wonderful over ice-cream or puddings and it can also be made into preserves. Fruit can also be dried and eaten all winter long.
Choose a sunny spot to plant your tree, although it will also grow well in light shade. Plant your Persimmon Tree in any kind of soil, but don’t plant it in a low-lying area that is constantly wet. As well as making an attractive shade tree, it can also be grown as an espalier against a wall or on a trellis, which is a great way to grow one without taking a lot of room, and also a good way to grow a tree in cooler areas and still ripen the fruit.
Keep your tree well watered during the first year or two, but after that it will take average summer dryness without problems. It needs no specialized pruning, unless you are growing it on a wall or trellis, where the branches should be spread out and tied to the wall. Since persimmons fruit on the ends of the branches it is best to remove just a few branches each year, to keep the growth compact without losing a significant amount of fruit.
The Persimmon Tree makes a great tree for the garden, or for a wall, with attractive foliage and fruit that is both beautiful to look at and wonderful to eat. If you want to grow a tree that is both different and easy to grow, this is the perfect choice. Supplies can be limited, so order now to enjoy something different and delicious in your garden.