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~ The American Persimmon, Diospyros virginiana ~

This native American tree grows wild throughout the southeastern United States. The fruit in smaller than that of the tropical persimmon, and its flavor quite different as well. Historically, it has been a favorite of the people of the First Nations, and subsequently by the European settlers.

The American Persimmon is a member of the ebony family. It flowers in early June, but its interest an an ornamental tree lies in its gorgeous blocky bark and fall silhouette; its leaves fall early, revealing bare branches loaded with large orange fruit, 3-5 cm across, topped with a decorative swollen calyx. Like the tropical persimmon, the fruit is notoriously astringent when green, yet exquisitely rich and delicious when fully ripe, usually in October or early November in Canada. Contrary to a common belief, frost is not required to turn the fruit from puckery to sweet.

For use as a fruit tree, it is important to select clonally-propagated selected varieties; the flavor and quality are highly variable. The fruit contains few seeds that are easily removed when consumed, but seedless cultivars do exist.

Named varieties include:

Campbell NC10 – Selected by Doug Camplbell of Ontario. Produces sweet, abundant, medium-sized, oval fruit that ripens early, ideal in the tree's northern range.
John Rick – Notable for its rich flavor and highly desireable firm texture when ripe. Large fruit bearing 2-8 seeds, orange with a reddish blush.
Killen - Medium orange fruit, very productive.
Szukis – Medium fruit, sports male & female limbs means that only one tree is required.
Peiper – Medium, sweet, early ripening, prolific.
Yates – Bears very large, yellow, sweet fruit with fine apricot flavor, hardy, prolific and very early ripening.

Easy Recipe for Persimmon Pudding
2 cups pureed persimmon pulp
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups condensed milk (unsweetened)
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
2 cups flour
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Stir condensed milk, sugar, butter, flour, and persimmon puree with electric mixer, and pour in glass baking dish. Sprinkle top with chopped walnuts. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes at 375F. Serve warm or cooled to room temperature. Delicious topped with a trickle a crème anglaise or rhum.


Cultivation





Trees are not self-fertile, therefore at least two trees must be grown. In gardens, this is best accomplished by growing the trees as multiple stem plants, to save space while showcasing the attractive bark.

Climate
The American Persimmon is reliably hardy to zone 6, perhaps to zone 5.

Site, Soil and Habit
The American Persimmon is very accomodating of soil types, and pest-resistant. Prefers a warm, sunny, sheltered location. Fruit bearing tends to be biennal, and gardeners should expect a plentiful crop to be followed by a lean year. Where feasible and desireable, the fruits can be thinned during the years of abundance, to stimulate production in the lean years.

Propagation
Primarily by seed, occasionally root cuttings. Seeds are stratified in moist (not wet) peat in the refrigerator for approximately 75 days or direct-seeded in a mulched seed bed the fall for spring germination. Grafted varieties should be favored, owing to the wide variability in fruit quality ranging from mediocre to delectable.


American Persimmon Links

Virginia Tech Dendrology - Nice photographs of the American Persimmon.
The Noble Foundation - More photographs of the American Persimmon.
Grimo Nut Nursery - Offers a great variety of cultivars, reserve early.
Hortico - Offers the seed-propagated species.


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