Deciduous, Edible fruit, Trees
Three kinds of persimmons are grown in the West. The native American species is a bigger, more cold-tolerant tree than the Japanese species, but the latter bears larger fruit—the kind sold in markets. The third type is a hybrid between the two. All three have inconspicuous flowers, are tolerant of many soils (as long as drainage is good), and are rarely bothered by pests or diseases.
Fruit of American, hybrid, and some Japanese persimmon varieties is astringent until soft-ripe; eat it before then, and tannins in the flesh make you pucker; eat it when the flesh is mushy and puddinglike, and the flavor is very sweet. To save the crop from birds, pick persimmons when they’re fully colored (deep orange) but still firm, then bring them indoors to ripen. Nonastringent varieties are hard (like apples) when ripe, with a mildly sweet flavor; they can be eaten hard, but their flavor improves when they are allowed to soften slightly off the tree. All types can be used in cooking and baking.
Native to the eastern U.S.; grows best in Zones 3–9, 14–16, 18–23. Can grow to 15–30 ft. tall and about as wide, with attractive gray-brown bark that is fissured in a checkered pattern. Glossy green, broadly oval leaves to 6 in. long turn yellow, pink, or reddish purple in fall. Round, 1 1⁄2–2-in.-wide fruit is yellow to orange (often blushed red); very astringent until soft-ripe, then very sweet. Fruit ripens in early fall after frost; some varieties do not require winter chill. Both male and female trees are usually needed to get fruit.
‘Meader’ is self-fruitful; its fruit is seedless if not pollinated. ‘Early Golden’ has more-flavorful fruit; it needs cross-pollination for best crop.
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