Plant A Persimmon!

December 9, 2012 | By | Comments (15)
Nope! They're not termaters! They're Japanese persimmons ripe and delicious and ready for picking --            which is exactly what I did. Photo by Steve Bender on 12/1/12.

Nope! They’re not termaters! They’re Japanese persimmons ripe and delicious and ready for picking —                                       which is exactly what I did. Photo by Steve Bender on 12/1/12.

The big, bright-orange fruits look like tomatoes on a tree. They taste sweet and delicious. The trees that bear them love the Southern climate, have no pests, don’t need spraying, and are as goof-proof as they can be. They’re called Japanese persimmons. And if you’ve shied away from growing fruit trees because they’re too much trouble, meet the ones that even an Inca mummy could grow.

Most people familiar with persimmons know them as orange, ping-pong ball-size fruits that drop from the tops of tall American persimmon trees (Diospyros virginiana) in fall. They also know that if you eat a native persimmon before there’s been a hard frost, your mouth will draw into a pucker the like of which you haven’t experienced since your husband last gave you Jane Seymour Open Hearts Jewelry for Christmas. (Shudder.)

Japanese persimmons aren’t like that. Most selections bear tomato-size non-astringent fruits that are sweet from the start. My favorite selection is ‘Fuyu.’ Here’s the bounty Grumpy made off with after a recent photo shoot at a wonderful garden center and nursery in Jemison, Alabama called Petals From the Past.

persimmon 008 phixr Plant A Persimmon!

Mmmmm! Don’t they look good! All of the fruit is edible except for the green cap on top. No core, no stones, and only rarely seeds.  Photo by Steve Bender.

Judy (Grumpy’s extremely better half) loves Japanese persimmons so much that two baskets like this last maybe a week. The flesh of the persimmons starts off firm and crisp, like an apple, then grows soft and juicy as it ages. Slice it horizontally and you’ll really see stars.

Photo by Ralph Anderson.

Sliced persimmon fruits have stars in the center. Photo by Bubba Bussell.

What I love about ‘Fuyu’ is that except for the cap on one end that attaches to the stem, you can eat the whole thing. It doesn’t have a core, like apples or pears, or a stone, like peaches and plums. It only rarely has any seeds and these occur only if it cross-pollinates with a nearby American persimmon. What does “Fuyu’ taste like? The closest approximation I can think of is papaya, but it really has a delicious, sweet flavor all its own.

Get Growing!
Fall, winter, and spring are good times to plant Japanese persimmons in the South. Here are some of the basic facts you’ll want to know.

persimmon 006 phixr Plant A Persimmon!

Japanese persimmons loaded with fruit in December at Petals From the Past. Branches used as stakes support the heavy branches. Photo by Steve Bender.

Size: About 25 feet tall, 30 feet wide

Light: Full sun

Soil: Well-drained

Prune: Prune young trees in spring to open up the center of the trees and provide well-spaced branches aiming outward. Pruning seldom needed after that.

Nutrition: Japanese persimmons are an excellent source of Vitamins A, C, and B6 and also dietary fiber. Two a day keep the Ex-Lax away!

Pests: Family members that pick all the fruit leaving none for you.

Fall foliage: Bright yellow, orange, and red.

Growing zones: Upper through Coastal South (USDA Zones 6-9)

Where to buy: Online from Petals From the Past

persimmon1 Plant A Persimmon!

A persimmon’s leaves turn blazing red and orange in fall. Photo by Bubba Bussell.

Wait! There’s More!
Mrs. Grumpy likes gobbling down persimmons fresh, but there are lots of ways to cook with them. Here are a few totally excellent recipes you might like.

Recipe for persimmon cookies.

Recipe for persimmon pudding.

Recipe for persimmon bread.

You can also store Japanese persimmons for long periods of time by pureeing the fruit in a blender and then freezing it. Try the puree over vanilla ice cream. Oh my goodness.


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    December 20, 2012 at 1:20 pm
  6. Steve Bender

    The first thing I would do is check to see if any branches are dead. You can do this by scratching to top layer of bark to see if there is green underneath. If you don’t find any green, the branch is dead and should be removed. Mulch to keep grass and other vegetation from growing against the base of the trunk, so you won’t damage the trunk when cutting the grass. That’s about all you have to do for a persimmon.

    December 20, 2012 at 11:02 am
  7. Steve Bender

    Old age, disease, and environmental stress can all kill trees. Trees flowering or fruiting heavily just before they die is a frequently observed phenomenon. Apparently, the tree assures continuance of the species before giving up the ghost.

    December 20, 2012 at 10:22 am
  8. Cheryl McMahan

    There is an old persimmon tree at the edge of the driveway of the property we bought a year ago
    . It’s been neglected but still had a lot of fruit this past season. Is there anything we can do to that will aid in preserving it?

    December 20, 2012 at 7:53 am
  9. Pam

    Seventeen years ago when we bought our mini-farm, there were 2 Japanese persimmon trees. One died about 5 years ago and in 2011 the other had a bountiful harvest and promptly died. Do they die of old age or what???

    December 14, 2012 at 8:54 pm
  10. Steve Bender

    Way to go, Barbara!

    December 13, 2012 at 3:08 pm
  11. Barbara

    We even tried to grow one in Austria, although the climate is not as good as in the south of the US but believe it or not, its growing beautifully and we cant wait to harvest the first persimmons maybe next year! 🙂

    December 11, 2012 at 6:45 am
  12. Diana Lehua (@dianalehua)

    Brenda, the Sharon Fruit is an Israeli-bred cultivar of the Diospyros kaki species (Japanese or Asian persimmon). It is not a separate species, so it should be very similar to the other Japanese persimmons.
    See my video and blog about persimmons and how to make persimmon fruit rollups and persimmon chip snacks:

    December 10, 2012 at 12:07 pm
  13. Brenda Hyman

    What’s the difference between them and sharon fruit?

    December 9, 2012 at 9:04 am
  14. Salt River Garlic (@saltrivergarlic)

    Love this article and love persimmons! I’d love to grow one a Japanese persimmon tree at the farm. Any idea how long it takes before it’s reliably producing fruit and how much fruit to expect per tree?

    December 9, 2012 at 8:46 am
  15. carolyn choi

    Thanks for this great article, Grumpy. Every Fall the Korean grocery store is filled with cartons of these and they are pricey. I will definitely plant one in my future N.C. garden.

    December 9, 2012 at 8:16 am

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