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Here is a persimmon from the cultivar planting at the Missouri State Fruit Experiment Station at Mountain Grove. John Avery, Fruit Grower Advisor, directs this project and evaluates the fruit from American and American/Asian hybrid persimmon trees. (Photo provided)

Ozarks Fruit and Garden Review is an article series from MSU-Mountain Grove’s Campus and Fruit Station. Starting in October, Ozark Radio News will share the articles online every weekend they are available.

by Marilyn Odneal, Horticulture Adviser

(Mountain Grove) – Pucker up – it’s persimmon time! American persimmons, Diopyros virginiana, have more pucker power when unripe than some of their Asian cousins, Diospyros kaki, which are originally from China and are called Japanese persimmons. In fact, one group of Asian persimmons has no pucker at all and can be eaten when firm like an apple. Kaki or Asian cultivars are either not astringent or, like the smaller-fruited American species, are astringent until fully ripe. The astringent pucker comes from a tannin, leucodephinidin, which bonds to proteins in the mouth causing it to feel dry and chalky. That is why it is so important to wait until an astringent persimmon is ripe – usually when the pulp is mushy and the skin can hardly keep the fruit together any more.

John Avery, fruit grower adviser at the Missouri State Fruit Experiment Station, is working with the University of Missouri Southwest Center in evaluating cultivars of American persimmons as well as an American/Asian hybrid cultivar. Fruit is harvested and yield per tree and average fruit weight is recorded. John is evaluating the American cultivars (named varieties) Lena, John Rick, Early Golden, Garretson, Wabash, and Yates; the Claypool crosses including F100 (a male line), A118 and H118; and the American Asian hybrid Rosseyaenka. John mentions, “My favorite for good size, flavor and early harvest is Lena. Early Golden also has good flavor and is the first to ripen, but it is small. Yates is also good in my opinion.”

John says, “Persimmons are great as edible landscape plants as long as you site them with room to grow and where fallen fruit will not be a problem. For that reason, I would keep them away from patios and walkways.” The drooping leaves and branches give the tree an informal appearance and trees are attractive when fruiting, have nice fall color, and retain the typical orange, but also yellow, red, and even blue fruit after the leaves have fallen for a festive appearance. Persimmon trees are usually dioecious – bearing male or female flowers on separate plants – but some trees have both male and female flowers and male trees can occasionally have bisexual flowers.

So pucker up and plant one of these lovely Missouri native trees in your yard. Remember that you may need to plant a male tree in order to insure that you have the lovely and delicious fruit to spice up your harvest table.

For suggestions, comments or questions on this column, contact Marilyn Odneal via email at MarilynOdneal@missouristate.edu; write to Missouri State Fruit Experiment Station, 9740 Red Spring Road, Mountain Grove, Mo. 65711; or call (417) 547-7500. Visit our Web site at http://mtngrv.missouristate.edu.

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