Many gardeners look forward to ripe apples and pears each fall but those fruits don't do well in my part of coastal Southern California. Due to limited hours of winter chill, most fruit trees other than citrus don't do well here in general. Persimmons are a notable exception. Frankly, I knew next to nothing about persimmons before we moved into our current home. I'd never even eaten one. We inherited two young persimmon trees with the garden but they bore relatively little fruit until last year. This year, despite two years of minimal rainfall, water restrictions, and rising temperatures, we've got more fruit than I know what to do with.
The common persimmon, Diospyros virginiana, was growing in North America before Europeans arrived on the continent but the trees didn't become popular until the sweeter Japanese persimmons were introduced in the mid-19th century. Both my trees are Japanese persimmons, Disospyros kaki. I have the two most common varieties of the kaki persimmons : 'Fuyu' and 'Hachiya'. However, other than bearing fruit on approximately the same schedule, they're different in many respects.
|This is the 'Fuyu', sited alongside the fence that divides my cutting garden from the dry garden on the other side. It's being crowded by a larger lime tree on the left.|
|Closeup of the 'Fuyu' fruit, which is flat on the bottom and looks a little like a miniature pumpkin|
|This is the 'Hachiya', sited in the dry garden at the top of the concrete stairway that leads down our steep back slope. Unlike the 'Fuyu' tree, the 'Hachiya's' foliage is showing signs of stress.|
|The view of the tree from the concrete stairway shows off the fruit more clearly|
|Closeup of the 'Hachiya' fruit, which has an acorn shape|
Diospyros is Greek for the "food of the gods." The fruit is rich in beta-carotene, vitamin C, and potassium.
|The fruit of 'Hachiya' (left) and 'Fuyu' (right) doesn't look the same but their appearance isn't the only difference between them|
Until I started looking into the fruit while trying to decide what I'm going to do with this year's crop, I assumed they differed in shape but not in taste. It turns out that's not true. 'Fuyu' is the most popular persimmon and the one you're most likely to find in supermarkets. It's not astringent and the fruit can be eaten much like an apple. While the darker the color, the sweeter its taste, it can be eaten when still firm. It works well in salads and can be frozen to be eaten like custard or to garnish for ice cream. In contrast, 'Hachiya' is so astringent that taking a bite before it's very, very ripe can cause numbness in your mouth. One source I read likened the taste of an unripe 'Hachiya' to the taste of a a very green banana. Another source claimed that while 'Fuyu' can be appreciated by impatient consumers, 'Hachiya' requires a consumer willing to until the fruit is so ripe it appears ready to throw out. Its skin should be translucent and, when held, it should feel as though it's filled with water. The persimmons used in baked goods are commonly 'Hachiya'. It's taste is said to combine well with spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. Online sources offer many recipes for using persimmons as you can find here and here.
The usual suspects are already stealing the 'Hachiya' fruit while branches of the 'Fuyu' are so heavily laden it's reasonable to expect branches may break even without the additional weight of a foraging raccoon. I can't leave the fruit in place too much longer or it'll all be smashed or half-eaten. I expect to harvest the 'Hachiya' within the next week or so and, unless my husband gets an urge to bake, I'll give the fruit to friends and neighbors. I'd like to wait a bit longer to harvest the 'Fuyu' as that fruit is less ripe. Fortunately, fruit cut prematurely will ripen in room temperatures given time. Ripening also can be sped up by placing the fruit in a paper bag with a banana.
A final difference between the trees is also worth noting. In addition to their difference in appearance, taste, and use in food preparation, the trees differ in terms of their foliage. The foliage of the 'Hachiya', at least in my location, goes from green to a homely brown as summer comes to an end. In contrast, the foliage of 'Fuyu' offers the best fall color of any plant in my garden.
|Photos of 'Fuyu' taken in November 2021|
Let me know if you have any uses for persimmons you'd like to suggest.
All material © 2012-2022 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party