The American Persimmon Tree

Persimmon Tree - Its growth requirements, timber and edible fruit and seeds and the uses they can be put to.

The American persimmon produces a large crop of edible fruit with very little attention but also produces valuable timber and is great for bees and therefore for honey production.

The persimmon is native to the Eastern United States from Florida to Connecticut and its range has been extended to Oregon and the southern parts of Canada. The tree is hardy to -25 C.

The persimmon is a spreading deciduous tree which can grow to 100 feet but more likely to about 40-45 feet. Flowers are born on one year old wood near the branch tips. The tree bears either male or female flowers only.

When fully ripe, particularly after the first frosts, the pulpy fruit has a delicious flavour. It has a soft smooth, jelly-like texture, a honey-like sweetness. The ripe fruit is to soft to be transported commercially.

Fresh fruits can be stored for about two months at a temperature just above freezing.

The fruits often persist well into winter. The fruit contains up to 5 or more large brown seeds. Fruits ripen between September and November, depending on the cultivar. The seeds may be roasted and ground and used in place of coffee. Oil can also be derived from the seed.

The American Indian used the fruit in gruel, cornbread and puddings and with honey locust pods, made an alcoholic beverage. The American persimmon mixed with cornmeal can be brewed into "simmon beer". Vinegar could also be made with this fruit.

The fruit can provide a self feeding fodder crop for livestock. All livestock enjoy the ripe fruit as they fall from the tree. They are also popular with wildlife. Unripe fruit, however is toxic, particularly to horses.

Spiced fruit bread is popular. Any astringency remaining in the fruit whilst cooking can be removed by adding a half teaspoon of baking soda for each cup of pulp. Cast iron utensils should not be used as the pulp will turn black. Persimmon bread is simply made by adding the pulp to the flour/yeast mix.

The American persimmon develops very strong, deep tap roots and a few lateral and fibrous roots. Wild trees often sucker vigorously.

The persimmon is easy to grow with fast growth until fruiting commences. It will grow to a height of about 15ft in the first 10 years. It prefers a deep, loamy, well-drained soil, but will tolerate any soil that is not waterlogged and dislikes exposed sites. The tree is drought resistant. For fruit production, plants of both sexes are required and a reasonably warm summer is need to ripen the fruits.

The tree is difficult to transplant and so should be grown in containers. The roots are naturally black and therefor not be interpreted as dead. These trees are ideal for interplanting because of their deep roots allowing more shallow rooting trees to be planted nearby.

The persimmon naturally drops fruit in the summer as does other fruit trees. Thinning by hand of the fruit can be undertaken to reduce overbearing, which can lead the tree to become biennial.

Good fruiting trees can be grown from the seeds of good fruiting seeds. Fruiting begins in year six and continues for fifty years or more.

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