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Persimmon

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Persimmon
Persimmon Main pic 1.jpg
Scientific Classification
Species
  • D. kaki
  • D. maritima
  • D. sintenisii
  • D. texana
  • D. virginiana
Flower of a persimmon tree.jpg
Flower of a persimmon tree

Persimmons are a delicious, plum sized fruit that are seedless or have seeds. There are several species of persimmon belonging to the same taxonomic genus known as Diospyros. They can be sweet or bitter to the taste. Although they originated in Asia, they are now grown in Brazil and the United States.[2] Persimmons are eaten raw or dried and are enjoyed by people around the world. Persimmons rarely grow in the wild and are grown and cultivated by farmers. They can self-pollinate or can grow without any pollination at all.[3] There are two types of persimmons, one being non astringent and astringent, but the tannins are removed in order to make them more edible. Persimmons are used to make traditional Asian snacks and foods.[4]

Anatomy

Bottom view of a persimmon

The persimmon is a deciduous tree which grows to 25 feet high and about 25 feet wide. It may have a single trunk or maybe a multi-trunked. It is a beautiful tree to observe and has drooping leaves and branches. The branches are brittle and will break when the wind is blowing heavily. The leaves of the persimmon tree are usually yellowish green when young and turn dark green and glossy as they get older. They are up to seven inches long and four inches wide. They are simple, alternate, and ovate. In the fall, if the weather is warm, the leaves turn beautiful shades of orange, yellow, and red.[5] The flowers are surrounded by a green calyx tube and grow from a wood that is a year old. There are both female and male flowers. The female flowers are cream-colored and single, while the male flowers are light pink and grow in threes. In the spring, usually there are one to five flowers per twig.[6] Most persimmon trees are either male or female, but some trees have both male and female flowers. The shape of the fruit varies, ranging from round, to acorn shaped, to flat, or even square.[7] The color of the fruit varies as well. It ranges from light yellow to orange-red. The fruit weighs from a few ounces to more than a pound. The fruit is classified as a juicy berry. At its base, there is an enlarged calyx. The fruit is set in clusters.

Reproduction

Most persimmons do not grow in the wild. They are grown and cultivated by growers around the world. Many of the persimmon trees are "parthenocarpic". This means that fruits form without the benefit of pollination. This causes the persimmon fruit to be seedless. Most persimmons are formed in this way, however, some are self-fertile which means that pollination is still needed to cause the fruit to grow and that pollen comes from the same plant.[8] Sometimes trees can bear parthenocarpically and self-pollinate at the same time. Occasionally, persimmons need to have cross-pollination in order for the fruits to be set. Some persimmon trees are dioecious. This means that the trees can produce either male or female flowers, and both male and female trees are necessary to produce a crop of persimmon. Oriental persimmon trees can have both male and female flowers on the same tree.[9]

Most of them are parthenocarpic and produce fruit from unfertilized flowers. Varieties such as Tomopan, Tanenashi, Hachiya, and Jiro can produce high quality, seedless fruit without pollination although pathenocarpic fruit are more prone to drop before they are fully mature. Native persimmon trees tend to produce either male or female flowers only. Native persimmons will not cross-pollinate with other varieties. When growing persimmons, tree spacing tends to be 15-20 feet apart. In Japan, they are planted close together, and then thinned after five to ten years. Persimmons are often grown in pots, and then transplanted into the field because they are fragile.[10] The shoots are pruned for the first few seasons, which forces growth into the branches, and the plants are formed into a pyramid type shape. After three to five years, the trees may need to be braced in order to prevent the weight of the fruit from breaking the branches.[11]

Ecology

Production of the Common Persimmons

Persimmons first originated in many parts of Asia, and later spread into North America and Europe. The plant was introduced in California in the mid 1800's. Grafted trees and seeds were distributed throughout the southern region of the U.S. By 1930, California had nearly 200,000 trees growing in groves. The tree was brought to Brazil by Japanese immigrants, and because of a nearly perfect growing environment there was a crop of over three million trees growing there by 1961. In China it is found wild high up in the mountain ranges. The tree has been grown for many years in North Vietnam, Korea, and Japan.[12] They are best suited in areas that have moderate winters and cool summers. It is recommended that the persimmon tree should be planted in inland areas that have full sun and a small amount of air movement. Alternatively, a persimmon tree can also perform well in cooler areas, but the presence of the full sun is required, as well as protection from the cooling breeze.[13] The persimmon tree grows best on loamy soils. If the soil is light and sandy it will not be suitable. It can be tolerant of heavy clay soil if there is good drainage. The preferred soil pH is 6.0 to 6.5. The persimmon adapts well, so it is able to fit into most landscapes. The persimmon has very few problems surviving. The only pests that can cause problems to the persimmon are mealybugs, ants, white flies, and mites. Ants can be controlled with ant killer. Root rot can damage the persimmon. The insects are not the only problem that the persimmon encounters. Vertebrates who are fond of the fruit such as deer, coyotes, and birds may consume the fruit which disturbs the persimmon. Gophers may attack the roots and destroy the plant.[14]

Fruit

There are two main type of persimmon fruit. They are the astringent and the non-astringent variety. The astringent persimmon contains very high levels of soluble tannins. so when they are consumed before they are softened, they have a furry taste and are not very enjoyable to eat. In order to have a better tasting fruit, one must remove the tannins by ripening the fruit. This is accomplished by exposing the persimmon to light for several days and/or wrapping the fruit in paper. Drying the astringent persimmon is quite popular among the Asian people for culinary use.[15] In Japan, the dried persimmon is called hoshigaki and in China it is called shi-bing. They are eaten as a snack, a dessert, and are even used as a special decoration for New Years in Japan. In Korea, they use the dried persimmon fruit to make a traditional Korean spicy punch called sujeonggwa and gamsikcho. Unlike the astringent persimmon, the non-astringent persimmon is edible, enjoyable and can be eaten raw or fresh when it is soft. The non-astringent persimmon is not actually free of tannins, but they are far less astringent before ripening.[16]

There is also a third type but less commonly known persimmon. It is known as the pollination-variant non-astringent persimmon(PVNA). The fruit of the persimmons that are grown in the Americas are oval or round, and about the size of a plum. The fruit, until soft and ripe, is astringent tasting. Asian persimmons are about the size of a peach, and are not astringent when ripe. Many people believe that frost is required before persimmons are ready to eat. This is not true.[17] If you eat a persimmon that has been frozen, it will probably be damaged. As a rule, persimmons become less astringent as they ripen, and this usually happens before the first frost. Persimmons keep on ripening well after they are picked.[18]

Many types of persimmons must be allowed to become fully ripe and soft before eating so that they have a chance to lose some, if not all of their astringency. The exceptions to the rule are Fuyu and Jiro which can be eaten while they are green because they do not have much astringency. One of the tastiest persimmons is the Fuyu which is grown in Japan and is noted for its good yield, ease of growing and its delicious non-astringent fruit. Maru is also grown in Japan and it is very popular, but the fruit is astringent before softening. These two types bear only female flowers and without fertilization they produce seedless fruit(parthenocarpic).[19]

Gallery

References