The persimmon tree is known for its beauty and delicious fruit. A deciduous tree, the persimmon sheds its leaves in the fall, going dormant during the winter. The tree's fruit is orange in color and its bark looks like alligator hide. However, patience is needed when growing a persimmon tree as these trees take several years to produce fruit. While waiting for fruit to appear, caretakers can enjoy its excellent landscape qualities. Besides the tree’s canopy offering ideal summer shade, the leaves produce brilliant fall colors.
Persimmon trees are grown in several regions around the world, but they’re mostly found in two areas: Eastern Asia, such as Korea, Japan and China, and the eastern region of the United States. Although these trees typically grow from Florida to southern Connecticut, some are also found as far west as Texas and Kansas.
Persimmon trees are classified into two general categories: those bearing astringent (sour or bitter) fruit and those producing non-astringent fruit. However, most astringent types of fruit lose their sour taste after they ripen and become softer. Astringency can also be reduced by overnight freezing of fruit and then allowing the fruit to thaw, which removes the sour, bitter taste.
Besides beautifying a landscape, persimmon trees produce fruit that promote good health as they contain nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Persimmon fruit is also a low calorie food that’s rich in dietary fiber. It can be eaten as a single fruit or be used as a tasty ingredient in desserts and salads.
There are more than 200 different species of persimmon trees. The American persimmon tree, considered the most versatile of all persimmon trees, grows in a variety of soils and climates. The black persimmon, a native tree of Mexico, yields fruit that resembles white flesh when ripe, that later turns black. The Mabolo is a persimmon tree from the Philippines, producing reddish-brown fruit tasting like fruity cream cheese, although its flesh smells like rotten cheese.
Insets and Diseases
Although persimmons are generally easy to grow, they can be attacked by mealy bugs, ants and scale insects. Other pests threatening persimmon trees include flies and thrips. Root rot can be caused by waterlogging. Pests such as deer, squirrels, rats, opossums, coyotes, deer and birds also attack persimmon fruit, along with gophers gnawing on the tree’s roots. Fruit shedding is another problem, particularly on young trees, although it’s not a serious concern.
Over fertilizing or overwatering can cause a persimmon tree to drop too much fruit. When this happens it’s helpful to girdle a few branches. On the other hand, too much small fruit can be remedied by removing all but about one or two fruits for each twig during the months of May or June, according to the CRFG (California Rare Fruit Growers) website.