References: Persimmon

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LUKE: That ole possum dog was Joe’s best friend. When he died las’ summer Joel buried him under a persimmon tree out there in the hills ’cause he said when fall come and the possums crawl out on the limbs to eat persimmons at night, he bet ole Spot’s ghost ud rise up from his grave and start up such an awful leapin’ an bayin’ that the possums ud git so scared they’d shake the persimmons all off the tree.

The Basics

A Persimmon is any of a number of species of trees of the genus Diospyros, and the edible fruit borne by them. The word persimmon is derived from Cree, an Algonquian language of the eastern United States, meaning “a dry fruit”. Persimmons are generally light yellow-orange to dark red-orange in color, and depending on the species, vary in size from 1.5-9 cm (0.5-4 in) diameter, and may be spherical, acorn-, or pumpkin-shaped. They are high in glucose, with a balanced protein profile, and possess various medicinal and chemical uses.

The most widely cultivated persimmons are from Japan and China. Different varieties of persimmons are native to North America, Mexico, Philippines, Asia and southeast Europe.

The American persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) is native to eastern North America. The American persimmon grows to 65.62 feet, in well-drained soil. The tree produces fragrant flowers in summer. Fruiting typically begins when the tree is about six years old.

persimmon.jpgThe fruit of the American persimmon is round or oval. The fruit color is usually orange, ranging to black. In the American South and Midwest, the fruits of the American Persimmon are referred to as simply persimmons or “‘simmons”, and are popular in desserts and cuisine. Fruit size is varies from 2 – 6 centimeters.

The peculiar characteristics of its fruit have made the tree well known. This fruit is a globular berry, from an inch to an inch and a half in diameter, varying as to seeds, sometimes with eight and sometimes without any. It bears at its apex the remnants of the styles and sits in the enlarged and persistent calyx. It ripens in late autumn, is pale orange with a red cheek, often covered with a slight glaucous bloom. One of the delights of the natives in the south is to induce strangers to taste this fruit, for its bitter astringency is something that can be known only by experience. Folklore states that frost is required to make it edible, but fully-ripened fruit lightly shaken from the tree or found on the ground below the tree is sweet, juicy and delicious. The fruit is much appreciated in the southern states and appears abundantly in the markets. It is much sought after by the opossum, who is supposed to fatten upon it.

Culinary uses

Persimmons are eaten fresh or dried, raw or cooked. When eaten fresh the peel is usually cut/peeled off and the fruit is often cut into quarters or eaten whole like an apple. The flesh ranges from firm to mushy and the texture is unique. The flesh is very sweet and when firm possesses an apple-like crunch. The fruit is high in vitamin C. The unripe fruit is extremely astringent.

The persimmon also figures prominently in American culinary tradition. It can be used in cookies, cakes, puddings, salads and as a topping for breakfast cereal. Persimmon pudding is a dessert using fresh persimmons. An annual persimmon festival, featuring a persimmon pudding contest, is held every September in Mitchell, Indiana. Persimmon pudding is a baked pudding that has the consistency of pumpkin pie but resembles a brownie and is almost always topped with whipped cream. Molasses can be made from the fruit pulp. A tea can be made from the leaves and the roasted seed is used as a coffee substitute. It is also fermented with hops, corn-meal or wheat-bran into a sort of beer or made into brandy.

Medical Uses

In traditional Chinese medicine the fruit regulates ch’i. The raw fruit is used to treat constipation and hemorrhoids, and to stop bleeding. As such, it is not a good idea to consume too many persimmons at once- they can induce diarrhea. The cooked fruit is used to treat diarrhea and dysentery

Wood

persimmon2.jpgIn North America, the lightly colored, fine-grained wood of D. virginiana is used to manufacture billiard cues and shuttles (used in the textile industry). Persimmon wood was also heavily used in making the highest-quality heads of the golf clubs known as “woods,” until the golf industry moved primarily to metal woods in the last years of the 20th century. Persimmon woods are still made, but in far lower numbers than in past decades. Over the last few decades persimmon wood has become popular among bow craftsmen, especially in the making of traditional longbows.

Like some other plants of the genus Diospyros, older persimmon heartwood is black or dark brown in color, in stark contrast to the sapwood and younger heartwood, which is pale in color.

Symbolism

In Buddhism, the persimmon is used as a symbol of transformation. The green persimmon is acrid and bitter, but the fruit becomes very sweet as it ripens. Thus, man might be basically ignorant but that ignorance is transformed into wisdom as the persimmon’s bitterness is transformed into sweet delicious fruit.

Dried persimmons or hoshi gaki are served at New Year’s time in Hawaii. They signify health and success in life for the new year. Persimmon can also symbolize joy, due to its red color.

3 Responses

  1. I planted a native persimmon tree more than ten years age and it is now 30 to 40 feet tall. It blooms but produces no fruit.. What can I do to encourage it to produce fruit?

    • You either have a male tree, or if it is a female, there are no male trees anywhere around to fertilize it. Only female trees produce fruit. Male flowers appear in groups of three, and female trees have single flowers. The flowers are very small, and you probably could not see them on such a big tree. I would suggest planting a couple more of each sex., just to be sure they will flower after4 or 5 years.

  2. The members who command the best service at your golf club either have the lowest handicaps or the highest bar bills

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