By Rick Gush, Urban Farm contributor
Friday, January 6, 2012
Photo by Rick Gush
Italy has an abundance of Hachiya persimmons.
The easiest way I know to grow a persimmon tree is to let other people grow them, and then go around and harvest the fruit later, when nobody else seems to want it.
Persimmons are the most common of all the fruit people don’t bother harvesting from their trees, and an even mildly enterprising urban harvester like myself can get more fruit than we can handle.
There are two main types of persimmons: American and Japanese. Diospyros kaki is the Japanese type, and this has been bred and cultivated by nurserymen for centuries. Diospyros virginiana is the American form, which is generally more of a wild tree.
American persimmon trees are much larger than the Japanese persimmon’s medium-small trees, but the American fruits are generally much smaller than the Japanese types. There are some weird hot-weather persimmon trees, but even though they can indeed be eaten when they are as crunchy as an apple, they’re not real persimmons as far as this persimmon lover is concerned.
Although I really enjoy the sport of scouring for unharvested persimmons during our hikes in the fall, I have recently planted a Japanese persimmon tree in the garden. I’ve had good luck growing persimmons in California and Nevada, and I’m pretty sure we’ll have good results here. I have again planted one of the classic Japanese large-fruited Hachiya types, and may plant one of the more exotic Italian “vanilla” types this spring.
Persimmons are pretty easy to grow, and while there can be occasional ant trouble, the trees are not bothered by particularly noxious pests. It does take some time for newly planted trees to start producing fruit — sometimes as long as five years. From what I’ve seen, both types, if left alone, will often lapse into an alternate bearing rhythm, but can be encouraged to produce fruit every year by regular pruning. This is a lot harder to do on the bigger American trees, so people don’t prune them as much.
Although I have always planted the self-fertile Hachiya persimmon tree in my own gardens, if one wants to investigate, there is a tremendous amount of nuance regarding many persimmon types, and some bear two different types of fruit, depending on whether or not the fruits have been pollinated or not.
We often take our annual, late-October vacations on the island of Elba, Italy. I enjoy these trips and hikes, and I know where a lot of under-appreciated persimmon trees are growing there. On Elba, there are mostly Japanese types, and that’s not surprising because the Japanese types are far more frequently sold in nurseries around the world. It is a bit surprising though that there are also a few patches of American persimmons growing ferally on this Mediterranean island, but this is fine with me. I enjoy harvesting that unattended fruit just as much as their larger cousins.
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