Diospyros lotus (Date Plum)
Diospyros virginiana (aka American Persimmon)
Persimmons can be categorized as Astringent or Non-Astringent. Astringent Persimmons have that bitter-dry, chalk-like taste to them before they are ripe. American Persimmons and astringent Oriental Persimmons are astringent, and they should be allowed to ripen on the tree or picked underripe and allowed to ripen. When ripe, the skin becomes soft and the skin is almost translucent, and the fruit will easily separate from the calyx. Non-Astingent Persimmons or Non-Astingent Kakis (since only kakis can be non-astringent) are ripe when the fruit is fully colored. They will still be firm at this point, but are ready to eat.
The Date Plum is a tree with berries less than an inch in diameter. It is one of the oldest cultivated plants. It is from these fruits that taste like a mix between a honey-filled date and a sweet plum, that the name Diospyrus originates (see Trivia below).
The Date Plum is native to southeast Europe and southwest Asia and has been cherished since before the time of the Greeks.
The American Persimmon is native to the eastern U.S. and has been used for its wood and fruit for thousands of years by Native Americans.
The scientific genus name, Diospyrus, means “fruit of the gods”… not a bad description of a perfectly ripe persimmon.
Persimmon fruits are technically berries.
One Oriental Persimmon variety is commonly sold as “Sharon Fruit”, named after a plain in Isreal where the plant was cultivated.
There are over 2,000 varieties of Persimmons in the world.
Underripe fruits can be ripened on a windows sill, a counter, in a bag with a ripe apple, or in a bag with a small glass of whiskey
- Fresh Eating – only eat ripe fruits!
- Dried – some varieties can be left to dry on the tree, others can be dried like an apricot, and others can be peeled and dried with frequent “massages” to improve the texture
- Frozen and then eaten chilled
- Baked into breads
- Carmelized into glazes
- Main or supplementary ingredient in sauces
- Fermented in Beers, Wines, Brandies, and Vinegars
- Specimen tree
- Wood – small wooden objects are typically made from Persimmon wood (D. virginiana can be coppiced)
- General insect (including bees) nectar source
- Winter wildlife food source
- Unripe fruits are high in tannins and can be used in tanning and dyeing
- Tree barks is said to have medicinal properties
- Fruits have been used to make ink
- D. kaki: 1-2 bushels (35-70 liters), can produce up to 400 lbs of fruit
- D. virginiana: 1 bushel (35 liters)
D. kaki: 7-10
D virginiana: 5-9
D. kaki: 10-7
D virginiana: 9-4
Chilling Requirement: 50-450 Units or Hours
D. kaki: 300-600 years!
D virginiana: 20-300 years!
D. kaki: 13-40 ft (4-12 m) tall and wide
D. lotus: 33 ft (10 m) high and 20 ft (6 m) wide
D. virginiana: 50-75 ft (15-22 m) high and 25-50 ft (8-15 m) wide
D. kaki: Medium
D virginiana: Medium to some drought tolerance
pH: 6.0 – 8.5
Underripe fruits have been very rarely associated with a very rare condition, the formation of Persimmon Bezoars. These are accumulations of undigestible polymers from a persimmon specific tannin. This only happens with extremely high consumption (one man ate over 2 lbs daily for 40 years!). These phyto (or plant based) bezoars traditionally were only removed via surgery. More recently drinking Coca-Cola to break the chemical bonds of the bezoar has been used. Amazing!