In November, these lovely ornamental trees produce a bountiful harvest of medium-size, reddish-orange fruit. Also called "Apple Persimmon", the round, flattened fruits are the top fresh-eating persimmons. Firm, crisp, extremely sweet fruits excel in fruit salads, dry well and can be frozen. Deciduous trees put on a splendid autumn color show. The tree is self-fertile; has good pest resistance; tolerates of heat, drought and humidity; grows in most soil types and is hardy in USDA zones 6-10. It will not tolerate water-logged soils.
The Japanese or oriental persimmon, Diospyros kaki, is an easy-to-grow, deciduous tree with delicious orange fruit and colorful foliage in the fall. Trees bloom late in spring, and fruits ripen in late fall. Native to Japan and China, plants prefer subtropical to mild temperate climates, and are hardy to Zone 7. Mature persimmon trees do not tolerate temperatures below 10 F. When well-grown, trees remain productive even after 40 years.
The variety ‘Fuyu Jiro’ does not need cross-pollination, and produces non-astringent, seedless fruits. Grafted plants 3-4 feet long are shipped dormant, with root systems up to 18” long. Plants grow well in full sun, in well-drained, loamy soils, with regular watering. Care must be taken when transplanting, because plants have fragile root systems. Plant with the whole root system below the ground level. Roots must not be exposed to freezing or drying conditions. Water trees immediately after planting, and then weekly, especially if they receive no rain.
Plants need up to three years to start fruiting well. Persimmons are usually pruned and trained to a modified central leader. Develop 3 to 5 well-spaced branches (around 8 to 12 inches apart) along the trunk. The first branch should be 3 to 4 feet from the ground. Then leave an area of around 2 feet on the leader without branches, and allow 3 to 4 more branches, and then cut off the leader above the highest branch.
Mature trees do not need much pruning. Remove weak, diseased or broken branches, and excess or crowded growth such as water sprouts. Prune to renew fruiting wood, since flowers are borne on current season's wood. Encourage new growth with moderate pruning cuts every 1 to 2 years. Pruning will give the tree a strong framework, when it starts to bear heavy crops. Persimmons have brittle wood that could break easily with heavy fruiting.
Fruit should not be picked until fully colored. When fully ripe, jelly-like soft and colored, Fuyu persimmons are eaten fresh, often chilled, cut in half and the flesh scooped with a spoon. Fruits are also used in baked goods such as bread, pudding and cookies. To speed up ripening, keep persimmons in a loosely closed plastic bag with an apple or banana. Apples and bananas produce a natural gas, ethylene, which promotes fruit softening and ripening. After harvest, persimmons can keep for weeks in a refrigerator. Fruits can be stored frozen for longer periods - when peeled, pureed or kept whole, then kept in tightly sealed plastic bags or containers.