The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

American and Asian persimmons

Traditionally dried persimmonsAlthough I'm primarily interested in growing persimmons as food for livestock, the persimmon has a long history as a people food.  Here in the United States, Native Americans added the fruit to their cornbread as sweetener, dried the pulp for winter fruit, ground seeds into meal, and even made a beer-like drink by combining persimmons and honey locust pods.  In Asia, persimmons were such a large part of the traditional diet that farmers cultivated varieties perfect for eating fresh and others just for drying, then planted them in large orchards.  American cookbooks that are at least a few decades old often include recipes for persimmon bread and persimmon pudding, the former of which tastes to me a lot like banana bread.

There are dozens of species of persimmons scattered around the world, but most people talking about persimmons are interested in just two species.  The persimmon cultivated in Asia (and which you can find in fancy supermarkets in the U.S.) is primarily Diospyrus kaki, which has large fruits that ship well and often competely lack the Diospyrus kakipuckery astringency that marks our native persimmon when the fruits aren't quite ripe.  A few people grow the Asian persimmon (sometimes called "kaki", "Japanese persimmon", or "oriental persimmon") in the United States, but cultivation is risky north of zone 7, so I'm focusing on our native species.  If you live in the Deep South, the Asian persimmon is worth looking into since you can find dozens of named varieties, at least one of which is bound to suit your needs.

The American persimmon (Diospyrus virginiana) grows wild throughout the southeast and is often ignored by locals in modern times.  Little work has been done on breeding tastier varieties and the fruits have to turn to mush before they are fully ripe, so they're impossible to ship and will probably never show up at your local supermarket.  On the other hand, the American persimmon is a more dependable bearer of fruit than the Asian persimmon --- American persimmons bloom late and are almost never impacted by spring frosts.  According to may people, the American persimmon has a better taste and is also higher in nutrients like vitamin C and calcium than the Asian persimmon.

Our homemade chicken waterer is always POOP-free.

This post is part of our Persimmons lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Nearest thing in taste to an American persimmon is a date. Can't believe an asian one can taste this good. Just be sure and eat them after frost.
Comment by Errol Tue Nov 2 12:42:27 2010
I'm curious about whether the Asian ones taste as good. I'd love to hear from someone who grows them and can do a taste test of homegrown fruits!
Comment by anna Tue Nov 2 14:35:26 2010
I've had both and the ones produced here in NA are NOTHING compared to Asian ones. The imported ones purchased here are not so great but getting them fresh -- they're amazing -- smooth texture, full but mild sweet taste -- they were my favorite in the 8 years that I lived there. Some people let the Asian ones get too ripe before they eat them, too. You have to have them when they're ripe -- if you eat them early they have that gross too-ripe banana texture and aftertaste. If it's not a good growing zone for you then no worries -- but I did just want to put in a good word for the Asian persimmons -- make sure to have some if you're ever in Japan!
Comment by J Tue Nov 2 17:06:18 2010
That's exactly what I suspected. After all, they have been breeding persimmons in Asia for centuries. It seems to me that the flavor of an American persimmon compared to an Asian persimmon should be like comparing the wild type apple with all of the varieties we now munch on.
Comment by anna Tue Nov 2 19:43:48 2010
Before last week I had never even heard of a persimmon (which I always accidently call a permisson). I tried a Fuyu persimmon and loved it. I was amazed not a week later and you're writing a whole series on it! Apparently you can grow some of the Asian varieties here in America. I think zones 6-10? I can't wait to learn more about it!
Comment by Caizn Wed Nov 3 00:37:15 2010
I have noticed while poking around the internet that a few new varieties of Asian persimmons are supposed to be hardy in zone 6, but I'm a bit leery. The majority are only hardy to zone 7, and I think even there are much more likely to be affected by late spring frosts than the American persimmon. So this week's series is really about the American persimmon --- hopefully that'll still tweak your fancy!
Comment by anna Wed Nov 3 08:47:07 2010

Please try to help me. I planted some persimmon seeds this Spring/Summer and all of them sprouted. Today July 19, 2012 they have 4 leafs. I know they will survive Summer but what about Winter time since I live in Ontario, Canada. Should I dig them out and when to bring them inside the house to overwinter, or should I try to protect them in the garden where I planted seeds. Should I bother at all because I am very (quite) old and there will not be time for me to see them growing into a big tree.

Please, tell me everything you know and your personal suggestion what to do.

Thank you all in advance,

Best wishes, Milos

Comment by Milos Thu Jul 19 21:31:11 2012

Milos --- Persimmons hate to be transplanted, so they're a bad choice for planting outside their range and then digging up to take inside each winter. I would opt to protect them where they are, although I don't know how much luck you'll have with that in your climate.

If you grafted an Asian Persimmon onto your seedlings next year, you'd end up with a smaller tree that should bear earlier, which would make it much easier to protect when it matures.

Good luck!

Comment by anna Fri Jul 20 08:52:03 2012

anna, thank you so much. I will have to go to the garden centre and still some little persimmon tvig of Asian Persimmon to graft on to my seedling. I hope I succeed.

Please keep in touch.

Thank you very much, Milos

Comment by Fri Jul 20 09:04:42 2012

Hello, I just found your blog and noticed many entries are from several years ago. Are you still keeping it current? The reason for my email is to inquire as to how your persimmons from seed worked out? I have tried growing from seeds that happened to be in a store bought fruit. I got 4 to germinate and got to 4 leaves and then just stopped growing. The leaves lasted until November and eventually dried up and fell off. Maybe this was normal, I don't know. I brought them inside and put under a grow light for the winter. It's still just a stick and I'm wondering if it is just dead.

Is there a nursery or place to buy more seeds? I was actually trying to grow the round and flatter variety "Haku"? I can't recall the name just the shape.

I'm also located in the Pacific Northwest -- about 20 miles north of Seattle. Do you think any persimmon variety would survive in our climate?

I look foward to hearing from you soon.


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