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

Starting persimmons from seed

Potted persimmonThe good news is that I now have one beautiful little American persimmon growing in our chicken pasture.  The bad news is that I started with 40 seeds last fall.  What happened?

The seeds came from a variety of sources (thanks, Lisa, Frankie, and Mom!) and I think I should have been more careful about how the seeds were handled.  The one seed that sprouted came to me inside a freshly picked persimmon, while many of the unsprouted seeds arrived flesh-free.  Persimmon seeds can die easily if they don't stay moist, so I think it's quite possible that some of the seeds I planted weren't even viable when I put them in the ground.  In future, I'll be sure to only plant seeds that have been inside a fruit, in the gut of an animal, or inside a damp baggie.

Since I had so many persimmon fruits from Frankie, I put about a dozen seeds in some Persimmon seedlingwater to ferment off the flesh the way you do with tomatoes or cucumbers.  I was hoping that the fermenting process would make the seeds more likely to sprout, but none of that batch made it.  Fermenting persimmon seeds doesn't seem to be helpful.

Finally, I think the biggest problem was my planting method.  Persimmons hate being transplanted and are supposed to be very dependent on native forest mycelium, so I dug up some soil out of the nearby woods, put it in pots, and planted the seeds inside.  Over the winter, these pots were sitting outside to stratify the seeds, and the frost heaved the soil until many of the seeds ended up sitting on the surface and drying out.  Since persimmon seeds don't sprout until far into the summer, I forgot about the pots and the seeds had another chance to dehydrate.  If that combination of mismanagement didn't kill all of the seeds, it surely must have knocked back the soil fungi, so my low germination percentage is no big surprise.

Tree protectionThis year, I plan to remove persimmon seeds from the fruit, wrap them in a damp cloth inside a ziploc bag, and let them stratify in the more controlled refrigerator environment.  Only in the spring will I take them out and put them in pots (in a more noticeable location!)  Alternatively, if I didn't think I'd lose track of them, I could just plant several seeds in each place where I want persimmons to grow, then thin back to one plant per patch next summer.

All of these should'ves aside, I think the one persimmon seedling I set out this week will do quite well.  Of course, I have to wait 4 to 8 years until I know whether it's a useless boy or a useful girl....

Our chicken waterer never spills or fills with poop.

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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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We say "Momo, Kuri, san-nen, Kaki hachi-nen." Lit. "Peaches and Chestnuts in three years, and Persimmons in 8."

I am happy to hear that you have a new tree! I love my persimmons, bitter and astringent alike.

A little trick that might work sweetening up your astringent American fruit- We put a little shochu (basically vodka)in a saucer and dip the sepals and stem of the still hard fruits into it. Then put the fruit into a ziplock bag on the counter for 2-3 days. It is still apple hard, but the astringency is gone. Again, I don't know about American varieties, but it works like a dream on Hachiya.

Comment by Eric in Japan Fri Oct 21 10:03:36 2011

Chestnuts in three years! I didn't realize they came so fast.

We'll be trying out some Asian persimmon varieties this year too, since I learned that there are a few varieties cold hardy enough for U.S. zone 6. They're astringent just like the American ones, so we may end up trying out your tricks. To be honest, though, I'm mostly planting persimmons as late autumn chicken feed... :-)

Comment by anna Fri Oct 21 13:26:50 2011
Sorry you didn't get more seedlings this season. I can send you some more seeds (inside the fruits) plus I will look to see if I can find some that have, some coyotes (if you don't mind getting something like that in the mail).
Comment by Lisa Fri Oct 21 14:50:24 2011
Lisa --- I'd love to try again! As I recall, your persimmons were early ripeners, which would help extend our fruit season since the one that sprouted ripens in November. Can I paypal you some cash for postage this time? I'm always happy to get scats in the mail... :-)
Comment by anna Fri Oct 21 17:35:35 2011
We have had persimmons for several weeks now (yum) so I guess that counts as early. It's my pleasure to share some seeds from our little wild homestead to yours. I'll put some in the mail for you this week.
Comment by Lisa Sun Oct 23 19:16:19 2011
Awesome, thank you!!
Comment by anna Mon Oct 24 10:51:40 2011

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