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Fuyu Persimmon Tree Among Top Varieties

Select persimmon trees, such as Fuyu or kaki, for your area.

| November/December 2015

  • Wild American persimmons
    Foraing for wild persimmons is a fun, and tasty, outdoor adventure.
    Photo courtesy Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
  • Be sure to wait until persimmons are completely ripe before attempting to eat the fruit.
    Photo by Fotolia/sola sola
  • Be sure the persimmons are ripe before taking a bite.
    Photo courtesy Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
  • Can persimmon seeds really forecast the coming winter's weather?
    Photo by Fotolia/spanish ikebana
  • Cut open a persimmon seed in the fall to determine the winter forecast.
    Photo by Fotolia/fastudio4
  • Hmmm, will it be a hard winter with lots of snow?
    Illustration by Brad Anderson

  • Wild American persimmons

Persimmons could use some good public relations. We forgive you if you’ve never heard of persimmons, much less tasted one; they’re not typically found in the produce aisle. Even if you have heard of persimmons, you probably think they aren’t fit to eat, at least not without being heavily frosted. That’s because when unripe, most contain astringent tannins similar to an acorn’s flesh or tea leaves, which can draw a person’s mouth painfully or create an unpleasant furry mouth-feel that lingers.

That’s a shame, as tasting a fully ripe persimmon is a delight to the tongue; and besides, who eats fruit green? The trick is to know when a persimmon is ripe. The persimmon holds the honor of being the last fruit of the season, sometimes waiting until October to ripen fully. You may be able to hurry things along by putting almost-ripe persimmons in a paper bag with an apple for a few days. They also color up well before ripening completely, and hang on the tree long after the leaves have fallen and frost has struck.

A ripe persimmon will be very soft, jellylike and nearly liquid, at which point its flavor is divine, often described as ripe apricot – mellow, sweet and spiced. I go a step further, likening it to the finest honeyed dried apricot dipped in dark chocolate, complex and delicious. It’s that nearly liquid consistency that puts an inexperienced person off, unsure whether the fruit has spoiled or frozen beyond salvage. No, that’s just how a ripe persimmon should be. If it’s not that soft, you’re risking a wooly tongue.

Home bakers will also appreciate the persimmon, using it to create memorable puddings, breads and cakes, cookies, crisps, chutneys, butters, jams – you get the idea.

A long history

Persimmons have been around for a long time, both in the New World and the Old. Long before Captain John Smith described the delight of a ripe persimmon and the torment of a green one, Native Americans and even Ice Age mammals like mastodons and ground sloths relied on the fruit of the American persimmon (Diospyros virginiana). Deer, opossums and raccoons still do.

The tree grows as far north as southern Massachusetts and New York, stretches west to Nebraska, and covers the entire Deep South. As an aside, “diospryos” is Greek for “food of the gods.”

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