I can remember my first experience tasting an unripe persimmon at about the age of twelve. I felt reasonably confident that I had correctly identified the soft orange-yellow fruit as that of the American persimmon, Diospyros virginiana, so I took a bite and will never forget the dry-mouth puckering feeling caused by the tannins in the unripe fruit.
The American persimmon is one of about 700 species of mainly tropical trees in the genus Diospyros.
Another species, Diospyros kaki, commonly known as the Japanese persimmon, produces fruit you occasionally see in the grocery store and is fruiting now on the Armstrong campus.
The Japanese persimmon is native to China, where it has been cultivated for centuries and more than two thousand different cultivars exist.
The shape of the fruit varies by cultivar from round like an orange to acorn-shaped to flattened. The color of the fruit varies from light yellow-orange to dark orange-red. A couple of the cultivars that we have had success with are ‘Fuyu’ and ‘Tanenashi’.These cultivars are easy to grow and produce fruit at a young age, although neither has the rich flavor of the smaller fruit of the American persimmon, when it’s ripe.