So while everyone is focused on that big orange squash, let’s not forget this is the season for another orange fruit, the often overlooked Asian persimmon, Diospyros kaki. Its sweet, creamy flavor and texture is a surprise every time you taste that first one of the season. And unlike their American cousins, Diospyros virginiana, they make a small and elegant tree that is trouble-free in most areas — provided you are in Zone 7 or above. Asian persimmons are also available in non-astringent varieties, so there are no worries about being sure they get really ripe before you taste one. Most Asian persimmons sold in the US are grafted onto D. virginiana rootstock for additional hardiness and toughness in our soils.
My persimmon tree is of the Fuyu variety, which is probably the most common. The tree is only 3 years old this fall, but last year I got about a dozen small fruits and this year the fruits are fewer, but are full sized. As fruit trees go, that’s quite precocious and is almost on par with berries like blueberries. The USDA says that retail persimmon prices this week are $1.36-$2.50 each, but I’ve never seen prices so low here, even on the rare occasions when I see them for sale. By the USDA measure, however, my tree has not yet paid for itself but it is getting close. The productive lifespan of the tree can easily exceed 30 years, so there’s time yet.
When it comes to short term preservation, the tree does it for you. Fruits will hang on the tree for up to 2 months to be picked and eaten on demand. After that, they don’t last long in the fridge; only about a week. You can make jellies, jams and chutneys from persimmons, and they can also be pureed and frozen or dehydrated. Maybe next year or the year after I will have an excess of these lovely fruit and will try some of those recipes out.
If you are looking for a fruit tree that is well-adapted to backyard fruit culture, grab a bright orange persimmon at the market in the brief period they are available and take it for a taste drive.