Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Kaki Persimmons

Mu Qi "Six Persimmons" (via commons.wikimedia.org)

Japanese Persimmon (commons.wikimedia.org)
Some background on persimmons.

from wikipedia:
Persimmons are Diospyros, meaning  divine fruit or "wheat of Zeus".    American persimmons are Diospyros virginana, while Asian persimmons are Diospyros kaki.

There are other species, including Diospyros lotus which is the rootstock for my two young persimmon starts.

American persimmon fruits are small, and American persimmon trees grow large.  Most are either male or female.  The variety "Meader" is a self fertile female.  Most others require a male pollinator.   When it comes to ripening, American persimmons are astringent to the point of being completely inedible, until fully ripe.  Then they lose astringency and have a rich, unique, tropical sweet flavor.

Ripe Kaki Persimmon (commons.wikimedia.org)

American Persimmon flower (commons.wikimedia.org)
 Asian, or Kaki persimmons are more complicated.  Apparently they also started out as small fruits that occurred only on female trees, requiring pollination.  But with culturing over the centuries, mutants occurred and were developed into several classes of persimmons - some are different when pollinated, and for some pollination has no effect.  Some are edible when crisp and under ripe - "nonastringent".  Others are very astringent until fully ripe, then are very sweet and delicious.

When the calix can be easily pulled out, that's a sign the persimmon is fully ripened. 

Some interesting folklore from the wikipedia article:   "painting of persimmons by Mu Qi (13th Century) exemplifies the progression from youth to age as a symbol of the progression from bitterness to sweetness... when young is bitter and inedible, but as it ages it becomes sweet and beneficial to humankind. Thus, as we age, we overcome rigidity and prejudice and attain compassion and sweetness."
Kaki persimmon (vintageprintable.com)

I planted 2 bare-root persimmon trees earlier this year.  One is "Seijo", which according to Raintree Nursery is one of the best flavored, and has the advantage of being the only Kaki to ripen at the Raintree nursery in Morton WA.  They may be a bit cooler than here, so maybe it will do well for me.

The second is hybrid between Diospyros virginana and Diospyros kaki, developed in Ukraine.  That "Nikita's gift", apparently, is 1/4 American persimmon and 3/4 Kaki.  I could not find ripening info.  In theory, the American genetics provides a richer flavor, more hardiness, and the Kaki genetics provides self-fertility, smaller size tree, and larger fruit.

Both are growing, slowly.  The first year the challenge is to get the roots established.  Toward that aim, they are mulched.  It's been rainy so I have not been watering them, but plan to if there is no rain for one week duration.  Both have a little growth.  The Seijo was larger at the start, and has more growth, compared to Nikita's Gift.  Neither tree looks very enthusiastic.  There is room for them so not uch lost if I never get to sample the fruit.  But I would like to get a taste, some day.

According to the Purdue horticulture site,  Persimmons were originally found in Manchuria, south to Kwangtung.  Marco Polo commented on Persimmons after visiting China in the 14th century.   In 1870, grafted Kaki persimmon trees were imported to the California and the US South, from China.   WA state is not listed on the Purdue site as a place where persimmons grow, but Oregon is.  Also some northern states, such as Michigan and New York.

Kaki persimmin (vintageprintable.com)
The Purdue site gives range of 3 to 4 years for some varieties to start fruiting, and others 5-6 years.   So it may be a while.

According to chestnuthilltreefarm.com, the original Seijo tree is more than 600 years old.  So it's a heritage variety.

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