Persimmons

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One mentions persimmons and my mind goes two places at once. First, I’ll think about our native persimmons and the efforts ranchers have tried to rid their pastures of them. What ever you do, don’t mow down a native persimmon that you are trying to get rid of. Doing that will only make the plant root sprout so that what was one now became 10.

Secondly, my mind goes to the wonderful little tree that was in the back yard of the rent house which my wife and I lived at while we worked just south of here in Woodville, Texas.

It was a perfect little tree that produced several juicy, plump Oriental persimmons which, if one was patient to wait on, would yield a delicious, non-astringent fruit.

Astringent is the technical term for the puckering or “contraction of mouth tissue” which is typical of persimmons. While this is a prominent feature of the fruit, it will eventually go away for almost every variety if you simply let it go long enough.

Persimmon trees are typically small, easy to grow, and adapted to most of Texas. The tree is an excellent candidate for organic gardening because its leaves and its fruit don’t have any serious insect or disease problems. In the fall, when few fruit crops are ripe, the persimmon produces fruit that is attractive and good eating.

The Texas persimmon, Diospyros texana, is found in northern Mexico and Central and West Texas; it is especially abundant in the Edwards Plateau area. The common American persimmon, Diospyros virginiana, grows wild in our area. American persimmon groves are common in abandoned pastures and along fence rows.

Unlike the cultivated persimmon, the wild persimmon varieties are small and very astringent until completely ripe. They are usually ripe after the first frost and all the leaves have fallen from the tree, though even then some fruit can still be very astringent.

The Oriental persimmon, Diospyros kaki, was introduced into the United States in the mid-1800s from its native China and Japan. It has been an important fruit crop in each of those countries for hundreds of years.

Persimmons need little if any pruning. You can shape trees to a desired shape and should remove any crossing, broken, or diseased branches.

They are not water hogs, needing supplemental water during their first year after planting to establish roots and when we are under a drought. Though they will benefit from some fertilizer, too much and added fertilizer and the tree will drop its fruit. Again, they are very resistant to pests and probably won’t need any help curbing disease and insects.

Mature trees can reach 40 feet high; some remain as shrubs less than 10 feet tall. The native persimmon beside our office is certainly a tall one. The Oriental persimmon at our rental house in Woodville was shrub-like, barely reaching 10 foot tall.

There are several Oriental varieties to try in your yard. Eureka, Hachiya, Tane-nashi, Tamopan, Fuyu, Izu, and Fankio.

Most Oriental persimmons are seedless, except Eureka. Fruit are harvested typically around our first frost.

Most are astringent except Fuyu and Izu. If not left to fully ripen, they will really pucker your mouth.

Author

Cary Sims
Cary Sims
Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is cw-sims@tamu.edu

Educational programs of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, sex, disability, religion, age, or national origin.
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