When we get to this time of year, only a couple of weeks shy of the winter solstice, there is not much fruit left to harvest. The feijoas have just finished, even the nuts are in and the new citrus is still a month away, it is the in-between month. The three exceptions in our garden are persimmon, medlar and a white sapote tree, all are abundant with fruit as I write this mid-June.
Until a few years ago the persimmon was a new fruit to me. Our property has both the non-astringent and the astringent varieties of persimmon, planted by the previous owner and I’ve enjoyed getting to know them.
The astringent variety of persimmon has a more upright growth habit and the fruit needs to be completely ripe before it is palatable. The non-astringent varieties have a more open and spreading growth habit and the fruit can be eaten when it is still crunchy and sweet without puckering your mouth. Both varieties ripen over a long period from early May until late June.
Persimmons are quite disease resistant and require little in the way of spraying. Birds do love the fruit when they become ripe but they are prolific enough to share. It used to be thought that they required a pollinator but in fact persimmons do not need a pollinator to set fruit. The wood of the trees is very hard and used to be made into wooden golf clubs.
I have tried many different ways of cooking with them including making jellies, sauces, chutney, smoothies and even ice-cream. They are a very sweet fruit and I have found they have a natural affinity with citrus, especially lime juice. My favourite two ways for using them are cubed in a fresh salsa with chilli, coconut, coriander and a dressing of lime juice, fish sauce and palm sugar.
The second way I like them is sliced, dipped in lime juice and dehydrated. They make a great substitute for dried mango or apricots in, museli or baking and the also make lovely sweet snacks. When eating them fresh, I eat them skin and all, they don’t have a core or seed but the middle is slightly more fibrous and I remove this when I dehydrate them.
They are a very hardy tree and can be grown in cold frosty climates. The final thing I love about persimmons is the beautiful autumn foliage which glows pink in the sun and the way the cheery fruit hangs on the tree like Christmas decorations in the depths of winter when the leaves are long gone.