Thursday, December 3, 2009
Persimmons have come up with an ingenious method for protecting themselves until they're fully ripe: they are horribly, mouth-puckeringly astringent when immature. There is a common saying (among folks who eat persimmons, at least) that a frost makes persimmons lose this astringency. This is close, but not exactly true: persimmons ripen up around the time of our first frost, but the two events aren't related. We've found edible persimmons before a frost, and horribly astringent ones after frost.
But don't let all this talk of astringency scare you off: when they're good, they're really, really good.
In the wild: Persimmons need sun to set a lot of fruit. You'll often see them on the edges of woods. We know of a few on the C&O Canal between Great Falls Tavern and the falls, and many along the Northwest Branch of the Anacostia north of Colesville Road. And we always keep an eye out for fruit along Eastern Avenue at Jecquie Park in Takoma, where there's a tall persimmon right next to the sidewalk.
In your yard: Persimmons can grow in a wide range of soils. You'll need sun, and room for a tree that will eventually be 20 feet or more. Edible Landscaping has a selection of saplings grafted from trees found in the wild with unusually large fruits. They appear to have also grafted them to be self-fertile, which is important, because wild persimmons have male and female trees.
Do you have a persimmon story, or a favorite spot where you find persimmons? Leave us a comment!