More and more in the fall, questions come in about harvesting persimmons. There are our natives and the commonly planted Oriental persimmons. Oriental persimmons generally start ripening around late October through the early part of December in our area. Much of the process associated in fruit development and ripening is dependent upon climate.
Persimmons are simply harvested by clipping and leaving the calyx, the outer set of flower parts. The calyxes sometimes look like leaves, and in some plants look like petals; they sometimes form a tube on a short piece of the stem that is attached to the fruit.
Fruit is picked when it has attained the proper color and is still firm to the touch. If persimmons are picked before fully colored, the fruit will not ripen evenly and this will make it harder to eat.
Careful handling of the fruit is very important in minimizing potential bruising. Bruising can cause brown spots.
Fruit may be ripened in a warm environment (60º to 70º F) for one to three weeks. It can also be stored at 32º to 34º F to extend the shelf life for one to four months. Astringent varieties have a longer shelf life than non-astringent varieties.
Oriental persimmons can be divided into two classes, astringent and non-astringent (that’s puckering and non-puckering for us persimmon lovers). Astringent varieties gain their astringency from soluble tannins that disappear as the fruit ripens and softens.
Non-astringent persimmons, however, can be eaten when still firm, without any astringency whatsoever. Some varieties are astringent, if the fruit is not pollinated; this is referred as parthenocarpic development which is the production of fruit without fertilization. If varieties are seeded (fertilized) they are non-astringent.
Astringent persimmons that lose their astringency as they ripen can sometimes be slow to ripen. The process can be hastened by freezing the fruit for 24 hours. When thawed, they are both soft and free of astringency, and ready to eat. An apple can be placed with the persimmons in a plastic bag or among the ripening fruit. Ethylene gas released by the apple will speed up the ripening process.
So long as we don’t let newcomers to this variety of fruit have an unfortunate puckering experience, you should find plenty of admirers. Persimmons are delicious whether eaten fresh, dried, or cooked. As a fresh fruit, they are unsurpassed. The taste of a fully ripe persimmon is superb, and is incomparable to any other fruit.
The Angelina County Extension office will be holding a seminar on southern bulbs on Monday, Oct 20 at 6:30 pm. Chris Wiesinger will be speaking on bulbs that have naturalized and thrive in our area. Cost is $10 per person, kids come free.
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.
Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.