By JoAnne Skelly
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A couple of years ago a friend introduced my husband and me to persimmons. The “Fuyu” she gave us to eat was the flatter type of persimmon that can be eaten while still firm like an apple. It is a non-astringent type of persimmon, rather than the astringent type that needs to be “mushy and pudding-like” (Sunset Western Garden Book) to be ripe, or it will make your mouth pucker. My husband asked me if we could grow the firm persimmons here.
Since I knew nothing about persimmons, I did a little research. There are two kinds grown in the West including an American species, Diospyros virginiana, native to eastern U.S. It is cold tolerant and will grow where winter minimum temperatures average 15 to 25 degrees with occasional extremes down to minus-20 degrees. It produces smaller fruit than the Asian (Diospyros kaki) types do. The American type grows slowly to over 30 feet tall. Many American persimmons are the astringent type.
Some American varieties need a male and female plant to produce fruit, while others are self-pollinating. “Early Golden” needs cross-pollination, but produces more flavorful fruit than “Meader”, which is self-fruitful. “Prok” is a self-pollinating, astringent type and ripens in mid-September to late fall. “Yates” is another self-pollinator, but it is a non-astringent native from Indiana. It is heat and cold tolerant. It bears within three to four years of planting and ripens in early September.
Although many of the Asian persimmons are the astringent type, the “Fuyu”, variety, a non-astringent, is one of the most popular fresh-eating Japanese persimmons in the world. It is self-pollinating. Its firm ripe fruit is delicious and seedless. It will grow where minimum temperatures stay above 0-5 degrees, maybe a marginal choice for our climate. It bears well at a young age.
Edible gardener and author Rosalind Creasy says that persimmons are relatively easy to grow. Both types tolerate many kinds of soils as long as drainage is good. They require deep watering and can withstand short periods of drought. They usually grow best in full sun. Both kinds make good shade trees, lovely accent plants or espaliers. They have striking fall color and the deep orange fruits remain on the tree after the leaves fall.
If you are growing a persimmon tree successfully in Northern Nevada, let me know what variety it is and how you take care of it. I think I will try to grow the “Yates.”
JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and may be reached at email@example.com or 887-2252.