The wild persimmon (diospyros virginiana) is native to our area and ranges from southern Connecticut down to Florida and as far West as Kansas and Iowa.
Like the PawPaw, wild persimmons have been foraged and cultivated as a food source by Native Americans since Prehistoric days. 1)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diospyros_virginiana Given the right conditions, a tree can reach over 60 feet in height and and produce up to 75 pounds of fruit.2)http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/cs/groups/public/documents/document/dcnr_20031966.pdf
While many of the cultivars require no cross pollination, the wild ones need the opposite gender to produce fruit. The fruit itself persists on the branches until ripened by the first frost, quite often dropping off the tree entirely once ripe. The ripe fruits contain a sugar content that rivals that of dates. However, biting into a not ready for prime time persimmon can produce interesting facial expressions and the sensation your mouth has been packed with baby powdered cotton.
There are better flavored cultivars and Asian varieties that do not bear this astringent quality and often produce much larger, apple size fruit. The Fuyu persimmon (Diospyros kaki) is one of the popular ones. These trees are easy to grow but somewhat restricted to Zones 7-10, versus their American cousins, zones 5-10. More and more nurseries and garden centers are selling native and Asian persimmons and they can also be sourced on-line for planting this Fall.
We have Fuyu persimmon trees and love this sturdy sweet fruit! You can read more about it in this article.
For an excellent overview of the wild, cultivated, and imported persimmons, we recommend you download a free PDF from the National Center for Appropriate Technology. 3)https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=10
If you are wondering where persimmons and other forage sources are situated in your area, check out this unique interactive mapping site. We discovered a ripening persimmon tree just a few clicks away from Wake Forest University. The site also allows folks to enter plants and their locations with a pin feature.
Here’s a short video showing how we’re preparing to harvest our wild persimmons. This method is particularly useful when the trees are remotely located. This works… unless the local wildlife gets to it first, as happened for us. So… when it comes to harvesting wild persimmons it’s a hit-or-miss.
Harvested fruit can be refrigerated for several weeks. If going into the freezer, they can be frozen whole or peeled, pureed and placed in sealed tight bags or containers. The freezing process actually lessens the astringent quality if the fruit was picked a bit early. Fruits can be softened and ripened more quickly if an apple or green banana is placed in a loosely folded paper bag along with the persimmons.
Persimmons (wild or not) are eaten fresh, dried, or cooked. You can slice them like apples or dice them like dates. Dried persimmons can be added to cereals, bread, cookies, and basically whatever recipes call for raisins or dates. 4)http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/health_benefits_of_persimmons We’ve discovered several excellent books that contain a wide array of recipes for this luscious fruit.
Here are a couple of recipes to get you started.
Aunt Pat’s Persimmon Cookies Recipe
Recipe from UC Davis5)http://www.fruitandvegetable.ucdavis.edu/?blogtag=recipes&blogasset=2231
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
LIGHTLY BEAT AND ADD:
1 cup Hachiya persimmon pulp (about 3 ripe [very soft] persimmons) (Gardens All would substitute wild persimmons)
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts
SIFT TOGETHER AND THEN ADD:
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
Drop the dough in generously rounded teaspoonfuls on a greased cookie sheet and bake in a preheated 350° oven for 12 to 14 minutes.\
Persimmon Whip Recipe
Recipe from MSU6)http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/health_benefits_of_persimmons
3 ½ Tablespoons honey
7 ripe persimmons, peeled and pureed
1 pint chilled whipping cream
Stir honey into persimmon puree to taste. Use electric mixer and whip cream to stiff peaks. Gently fold persimmon honey mixture into whipped cream. Divide into parfait dishes or baked pie shell. Chill or freeze.
How to Pollination Persimmons
If you want to grow persimmons, here are some simple tips excerpted from SFGate.com.7)http://homeguides.sfgate.com/tell-sex-persimmon-tree-61597.html
Wild persimmons need an opposite gender to cross pollinate. And then, of course you need the pollinators. Try procuring some alternate genders. At the risk of TMI, here’s a method of determining persimmon tree gender.
- Look at year-old growth on the persimmon tree in March, and find its inconspicuous flowers.
- Three flowers together signify male blossoms, which have a pink tinge. A persimmon tree with a large percentage of male flowers is male.
- Female flowers grow alone and have an off-white or cream color. A majority of these kinds of flowers on the tree mean the tree is female.
- Repeat identification the following year. Some trees to learn whether or not the tree changes the sex of flowers it bears.
Festivals honoring this unique food source can be found all over the US.
Persimmon festivals typically occur in late October. Here’s a starter list, but you can search for Persimmon [my city name], to see what may be happening near you.
References [ + ]