Auburn, Ala.—Persimmons are a unique kind of fruit. They look like orange tomatoes on the outside, but the inside is full of sweet fruit. They are not your typical and average fruit, but growing a persimmon tree is not as difficult as one might think. A little known fact about persimmon trees are that they easily adapt to a variety of soils.
Persimmons are an edible fruit in the genus Diospyros, which is in the family Ebenaceae. Oriental or Japanese persimmons are the most widely cultivated. They are a light to dark orange color. They come in different shapes and sizes, typically from 1.5 to 9 cm. When ripe, persimmons have a high-glucose content. Similar to tomatoes, it is scientifically classified as a berry though others tend to disagree.
Persimmon trees are native to Korea, China, Nepal, Japan and Burma. It is commonly cultivated in India, California, Brazil and Europe. The fruits are known to be sweet and tangy but very sour when unripe. Unfortunately they do not ship well commercially, so availability at grocery stores is limited. However, those interested in the fruit can grow the trees themselves.
Alabama has a similar climate to those of its native countries, so persimmon trees can grow and be sustained here. Northern Alabama tends to get colder temperatures, but it can still be planted. Hayes Jackson, an urban regional Alabama Extension agent, suggests the trees be planted between November and February.
“The biggest challenge in growing persimmon trees here is actually finding them,” said Jackson. “Seek out a nursery that carries them in different varieties.”
Persimmon trees come in varieties such as Japanese, American, light-colored, dark-colored, soft and firm fruits. “Some persimmon trees can grow to be 30 feet, while others stay 10 feet. The bigger they get, the slower it grows,” he said.
Jackson suggests that gardeners fully understand the different varieties and know which one best suits their climate and garden. The trees should be planted where they can receive full sun and should be watered for the first year. Once the fruits start growing, crop and prune the trees to support the weight. Expect fruits soon after the tree is planted.
With any fruit tree, owners can expect wildlife animals to snack on some. Lucky for the gardeners, the fruit produces plenty to be shared amongst wildlife and humans. Jackson suggests leaving out traps if harvesters do not want wildlife eating the fruit.
Persimmons are easy to grow and take care of. One downside is the cost of the fruit tree. Furthermore, the trees are hard to bud and sometimes do not survive the digging. But minus the cons, persimmon trees adapt to a wide variety of soils, are pest-free and disease-free.
Once the trees produce the fruit, harvesters can expect them to be ready to eat around September. A ripe persimmon will be soft or firm, but both will a great source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, potassium and fiber.