How to Plant and Grow Persimmons
Persimmons, if unripe, are notorious pucker-producers. When ripe, however, they're delicious. "There are so many varieties of persimmons, including Japanese and American varieties, light-colored flesh, dark-colored flesh, firm and soft," says fruit expert Ed Laivo.
Persimmons don't ship well commercially, so the selection at your local supermarket is likely to be limited. So what's a persimmon pursuer to do? Plant your own tree. Odds are there's a variety that will grow well in your neck of the woods. For example, the American persimmon always has to be used soft and is usually grown in the Midwest or the colder regions of the east coast. The Japanese varieties are all adapted to the milder coastal climates of the United States.
However, there are a few reasons these beautiful trees aren't growing in everyone's yard. According to Laivo, persimmon trees are a little more expensive than your average fruit tree because the propagation is expensive. Not only is the tree hard to bud, but the buds don't always take, and sometimes less than 60 percent of the trees survive the digging. So growers like Laivo take on the challenge of propagating persimmon trees, and the rest of us can buy young, healthy, grafted trees at the nursery. Sure you'll pay a little more, but the investment offers returns in other ways.
"Persimmon trees are really easy to take care of," Laivo says. "They're actually very adaptable to a wide range of soils, they're disease- and pest-free, and basically drought tolerant after established." Depending on your climate, persimmon trees can be planted in early spring or winter.
How to Plant Your Persimmon Tree
Persimmons are great trees for the home gardener, and they're easy to plant. First, dig a hole wider than it is deep. Then, choose a plant with nicely developed roots. The crown should sit a tad above the soil line to accommodate settling. Laivo recommends backfilling the soil to create a pyramid in the center of the hole. Set the tree on top, and add enough dirt to fill the hole.
Laivo doesn't amend the soil because the roots need to adapt to the nutrients that will be available for the next 100-plus years. Instead, he uses other protective measures like mulch. Mulch helps to cut down on evaporation and also keeps the roots cooler in the summertime. Laivo recommends high-density planting or several trees planted in one hole in smaller yards to provide lots of fruit, great pollination and easy harvesting all in one compact area.
Caring for Your Tree
Persimmons are also very easy to maintain, as far as pruning is concerned. Simply prune limbs that are crossing and dangling. Laivo suggests structural cuts or cutting branches back to about the third bud inside the tree. Structural cuts create strong branches to support lots of fruit. Laivo also prunes for size control and doesn't let his trees grow any taller than the height his hands can reach over his head. Anything above that is too hard to harvest without a ladder. Just remember the "kiss" method: keep it short and simple. Moderate pruning can also help reduce the tree's tendency to be alternate bearing or fruiting every other year.
Ready to Eat
So when can you bite into a nice ripe persimmon? While most fruit needs warm weather to ripen, persimmons are ready during the fall. Persimmons are a fall crop primarily ripening in September all the way to the beginning of the next year. There are two varieties of persimmons. The astringent fruit is eaten when it has become jelly-soft.
The nonastringent fruit, which is gaining in popularity, is eaten while still firm. According to Laivo, the American palette likes firm fruit, and so the Fuyu persimmon is a very common choice. Persimmons are a great source of vitamins A and C as well as of potassium and fiber.
Tip: To ripen American astringent persimmons in a jiffy, place the fruit in the freezer overnight. Remove the fruit from the freezer and allow the cold-ripened fruit to thaw.