Common Name: Kaki tree
Botanical Name: Diospyros kaki, Oriental Persimmon
Color: Showy edible fruit, good fall color.
Type: Small fruit tree
Size: 20 to 30 feet by 20 to 30 feet
Soil: Wide range of soil tolerance but prefers moist, sandy, well-drained loams.
pH: Slightly acidic
Exposure: Full sun
Zone: 7 to 10
Origin: Kaki is native to India, Burma, China, and Korea, and is widely cultivated in Japan
Use: Medium residential tree with editable fruit.
Have you ever seen a tree in the fall full of pale reddish-orange fruit and wondered what it was? It looks exotic in North Carolina landscapes, even though there are native varieties. In any case, what most likely caught your eye is the persimmon, and what you are curious about is Diospyros kaki, otherwise known as Japanese or Oriental persimmon. This tree is noted not only for its edible fruits but also for its excellent ornamental features.
Oriental persimmon can a conversation piece–when the fruit is ripe for picking, when the foliage turns red in the fall, and even to enjoy the fruit sliced or eaten whole, or the leaves made into tea even. Fruit is commonly sliced or eaten whole. Flesh may be added to jellies, jams, salads, salsa, ice creams or even pancakes, pies, and syrups.
You might want to consider the placement in an area where the unpicked fruit doesn’t land on the patio or other areas of foot traffic. In that regards, persimmon can be considered a messy tree.
Diospyros kaki, Japanese persimmon is a medium-sized deciduous tree with a rounded, spreading crown and outer branches that may droop, particular when in fruit. Genus name comes from Greek dios (divine) and pyros (wheat or grain) meaning divine fruit.
Trees are usually dioecious (separate male and female trees), but some trees have both male and female flowers and in some cases also some perfect flowers.
There are two types of persimmon fruit based on the fruit astringency: astringent or non-astringent.
The astringent persimmons are sour (astringent) until the become very ripe and soft. Astringency isn’t lost until the fruit is ripened. It’s best to eat astringent persimmons that are either fully ripe or to use for drying.
The non-astringent persimmon are sweet and crunchy. These are best eaten fresh while the fruit is still mature and firm.
Favorites for eating fresh are ‘Wase Fuyu’, ‘Fuyu’, and ‘Fuyu Imoto’.
Favorites for drying are ‘Saijo’, ‘Hachiya’, and ‘Tanenashi’ varieties,
WHAT TO DO WITH THE BOUNTY
The fruit should be harvested when ripe. Ripeness is determined by the fruit’s color. Take care in handling the fruit since, when ripe, the fruit bruises easily.
After harvest, the fruit may be whole stored for several weeks in a refrigerator. Persimmon fruit can also be stored for longer periods by freezing. They can be stored whole and then used as needed, or processed before freezing, by peeling first, then pureed, and stored into tightly sealed plastic bags or container. It’s good to know, some astringency is lost during the freezing process, so the fruit from astringent varieties, doesn’t need to be fully ripe (softened) prior to freezing for the astringent varieties. But, it is also OK if it is.
There are several other features of the persimmon as ornamental tree with edible fruit, particulary ‘Fuyu Jiro’. During the spring, your persimmon tree will have the most delightful little flowers. Tiny white, bell-shaped blossoms dangling from the branches. In the winter months the ornamental bark puts on a show. The trunk appears as it it’s covered in square or rectangular, dray grey plants. But of course, the persimmon truly shines when its fall harvest begins. The fruit stars out green, but slowly transitions to a deep shade of orangeish-red. During this time, the leaves will transform to yellow, reds, and purples to add to the fall glory.
Check with your local nursery to see what is available in your agree. A persimmon will add value to any North Carolina landscape.