The American Persimmon is an orange-colored fruit with a unique sweet flesh that is eaten raw or in cooking. These fruits are products of the diospyros virginiana tree, which is a relative of the South American date plum tree. These trees can reach from 40-100 feet. Persimmon tree leaves have been made into tea, and the large seeds have been roasted as a coffee substitute. American Persimmon trees produce attractive white dioecious flowers that are pollinated by insects and wind, and their foliage turns color in the fall. It is primarily an East coast tree that is cultivated from New England to Florida. Fruits typically begin appearing in the sixth year of growth.
It was brought to England before 1629 and is cultivated, but rarely if ever ripens its fruit. It is easily raised from seed and can also be propagated from stolons, which are often produced in great quantity. The tree is hardy in the south of England and in the Channel Islands.
In respect to the power of making heartwood, the locust and persimmon stand at the extreme opposite ends of the list. The locust changes its sapwood into heartwood almost at once, while the persimmon rarely develops any heartwood until it is nearly one hundred years old. This heartwood is extremely close-grained and almost black, resembling ebony (of which it is not a true variety).
It is a common misconception persimmon fruit needs frost to ripen and soften. Some, such as the early-ripening varieties “pieper” and “NC21″(also known as “supersweet”), easily lose astringency and become completely free of it when slightly soft at the touch. These are then very sweet, even in the British climate. On the other hand, some varieties (like the very large-fruited “yates”, which is a late ripening variety) remain astringent even when the fruit has become completely soft (at least in the northern climate). Frost, however, destroys the cells within the fruit, causing it to rot instead of ripen. Only completely ripe and soft fruit can stand some frost; it will then dry and become even sweeter (hence the misconception). The same goes for the oriental persimmon (Diospyros kaki), where early frost can severely damage a fruit crop.
Growing Information: The tree prefers light, sandy, well-drained soil, but will grow in rich, southern, bottom lands. It can be grown in northern Ohio only with the greatest of care, and in southern Ohio its fruit is never edible until after frost. The tree is greatly inclined to vary in the character and quality of its fruit, in size this varies from that of a small cherry to a small apple. Some trees in the south produce fruit that is delicious without the action of the frost, while adjoining trees produce fruit that never becomes edible.
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