persimmons are a genus (Diospyros) of about 450–500 species of deciduous and evergreen trees. The majority are
native to the tropics, with only a few species extending into temperate climates.
Kaki Persimmon (Diospyros kaki) is the most widely cultivated species,
grown for its delicious fruit (see below). This species, native to China,
is deciduous, with broad, stiff leaves. Cultivation for the fruit extended first
to other parts of east Asia, and was later introduced to California and southern Europe in the 1800s.
American Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) is native to eastern North America. The Black
Persimmon or Black Sapote (Diospyros digyna) is native to Mexico,
and its fruit has green skin and white flesh when unripe and turns black when
ripe. There is also the Mabolo or Velvet-apple (Diospyros discolor),
which is native to the Philippines. It is bright red when ripe.
Date-plum (Diospyros lotus), native to southwest Asia and southeast Europe, was known
to the ancient Greeks as "the fruit of the Gods",
i.e., Dios pyros, whence the scientific name of the genus. Its English
name derives from the small fruit, which has a taste reminiscent of both plums
word persimmon comes from the Algonquin language
of the eastern United States.
fruit of many species
of persimmons is edible; it is light yellow-orange to dark red-orange in color
and varies from 2–8 cm in diameter according to species. The calyx
often remains with the fruit after picking. Persimmons may be spherical, acorn
or pumpkin shaped, depending on the variety. They come in astringent and non-astringent
varieties: astringent fruits are astringent until they become ripe, when they
are custard-soft. Non-astringent varieties are less astringent when unripe, and
lose their astringency earlier; they are firm and slightly crunchy when ripe.
The astringency can be removed by an after-ripening of light exposure to frost over a few days;
this process is known as bletting. Persimmons may be cooked or eaten raw.
Non-astringent fruits are preferred for eating raw.
Persimmon (variety Hachiya) - watercolor 1887
- Fuyu or Japanese
wood of persimmons
is known as ebony. It is heavy and hard,
and with the heartwood jet black in several tropical species, notably Diospyros
ebenum. These species with black heartwood are valued far more for their wood
than for their fruit.