This fruit's botanical name means “food of the gods.” While most of us are familiar with the Asian versions we find in grocery stores in fall, there is a hardier American type too. The fruits ripen around the first frost into sweet, custardy orbs with a hint of clove. It can even be made into beer. What's this fruit? It's the persimmon.
The Asian persimmon is grown mostly in California in our country. They can survive a Connecticut winter, but may not fruit regularly. The American types are winter-hardy and fruit consistently.
Asian persimmons are either astringent or non-astringent. Non-astringent fruits are eaten like apples while still hard, while astringent varieties have to be fully ripe to be flavorful. American varieties are only astringent, so wait until the fruit is mushy and soft to eat them. Otherwise, the flavor will make your mouth pucker.
American persimmon varieties such as Early Golden and Meader are self-fertile, so you only need one tree to get fruit. The tree can grow up to 30 feet tall, but pruning can keep it more manageable. The leaves are large and long, like an avocado, but the fruit’s only one to two inches wide.
Once the tree is mature, you'll get lots of fruit that people and wildlife will love. Persimmon trees also have yellow to orange colored fall leaves. The leaves drop while the orange fruits are still hanging on the trees, giving it a spooky appearance.
Plant American persimmons in full sun on well-drained soil. Protect the trees from deer when young and in no time you'll have a beautiful, edible landscape tree.
Next week on the Connecticut Garden Journal, I'll be talking about Japanese anemones. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.