(Diospyros virginiana) In Greek the genus name for persimmons roughly translates to “Fruit of the Gods”.  This is in reference to the delicious 1 – 2 inch orange fruits that when ripe have been described as tasting like ”apricots drizzled with honey and a dash of spice added”.  However if you bite into one before it is ripe, Look Out!  Your mouth will pucker from the tannic acid and the astringent quality associated. 

American persimmon with fruit

These are another one of our native fruits which are being “rediscovered” and are starting to now be appreciated. What is it with our culture that we think something is better the rarer it is or if it comes from a further distance?  Sometimes the best things are right under our noses!

The American Persimmon can be made into jams, jellies and pie fillings along with all sorts of desserts.  The fruit can be processed and the pulp frozen for use later.  Cookies, cakes, custards and ice cream can then be made with this pulp.  Probably the best known desert is persimmon pudding. It is a baked pudding that has the consistency of pumpkin pie and is almost always topped with whipped cream.  Each year in September the annual persimmon festival is held in Mitchell, Indiana and features a contest for the best pudding.  Of course the fruit can also just be eaten fresh!

On the nutrition/health side, persimmons have high dietary fiber, phenolic compounds, potassium magnesium, calcium, iron and manganese. They are rich in vitamin C and beta carotene.  Regular consumption is believed to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis heart attacks and also improve lipid metabolism.

The trees themselves are a thing of beauty with a tropical appearance. This is due to the long and

American Persimmon Tree

drooping glossy green leaves and an alligator bark.  A small group of them can make a nice shady area on your property and a perfect place to hang a hammock for those hot summer days.  The trees are male or female so to get fruit you will need one of each.  That’s the good news, the bad news is you don’t know the sex until they are mature and flower. The best way is to plant at least three trees which increases your odds of having both.  These are seedling trees and are inexpensive. The fruit matures and ripens in late fall and can hang on the tree until almost Christmas.

Persimmon with frost

This tree isn’t picky to soil types and seems to have no known pests or diseases here.  It becomes drought tolerant once established probably due to the long taproot that it develops. We have grown these for several years in New Mexico and as far as I can tell we are the only nursery to ever carry them.  This would also make a great diversification as a crop for Farmer’s Markets and certainly extends the fruiting season.