Persimmon: the other orange fall fruit.
Persimmons, in my humble opinion, are highly underrated. I don’t know many people who grow and eat them, but they are an excellent fruit and grow well in Louisiana.
The fruit can be astringent (the kind that makes your face pucker) or sweet and juicy with a unique texture.
These beautiful orange fruits are packed with nutrients — fiber, antioxidants as well as vitamins A, C and E, potassium, manganese, thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), magnesium and phosphorus.
Fall is the time to harvest persimmons. Check out your fruit vendors and with your neighbors who grow them. There’s also some pick-your-own orchards in Louisiana. Give that a try or consider growing some in your yard.
There are three kinds of persimmons — natives, astringent and non-astringent.
Astringent ones are bitter, which is caused by tannins. As the fruit ripens in late October to early November, it turns a bright orange, and those tannins mellow out producing a honey-like flavor.
The natives (diospyros virginiana) have small, inedible fruit until hit by a frost, when they will finally ripen, nice and sweet and ready to eat.
All three types can be grown in Louisiana. Nonnatives, from Asia, are much larger than native fruits. Natives have lots of seeds, while the Asian varieties do not.
Persimmon trees are easy to care for with few pests, other than the birds who love the fruit.
Diospyros kaki are small fruit trees that produce a fall harvest. The genus name comes from the Greek dios, meaning divine, and pyros meaning wheat or grain.
The tree is native to Asia, and it is cultivated heavily in China, Japan, Korea and India. Growing in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 7-10, they grow 20-30 feet tall, spread 20-30 feet wide and bloom in the spring from May to June.
The female flowers are creamy white, and male flowers are pink, but both are inconspicuous. The trees are deciduous and have a nice fall foliage color change to yellow-gold.
They prefer full sun but can tolerate some shade and become loaded with fruit, which makes great fall color. Plant in well-drained but moist and slightly acidic sandy-loam soils.
These trees are drought tolerant and mostly pest and disease resistant. Scale and mealybug may need to be controlled and leaf spot may occur but is no cause for real concern. Fertilize in late winter or early spring with a slow-release granular such as 10-10-10.
The fruit can be made into jellies, jams, marmalade and syrups. Or just grab a ripened fruit and eat. The leaves can be brewed to make tea.
Fuyu is the most popular nonastringent variety, producing medium to large fruit that is mild and sweet with deep orange color. Other nonastringent varieties include Fuyu Imoto, Hana Fuyu and Suruga.
Astringent Japanese persimmon varieties are Tanenashi and Euerka.
When the leaves fall in autumn, and the gorgeous, bright orange fruits remain, these trees make for an interesting focal point in the landscape.
The trees can be pruned as a hedge, screen or espalier. Plant trees away from heavy foot traffic and away from driveways because of messy falling fruit.
Retail nurseries and garden centers should have fruit trees available in late winter through late spring.