Persimmon

By Gina Marzolo, graduate student of agricultural sciences, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, grmarzolo@cpp.edu, June 2016.

Edited by Dan Lee, communications specialist, College of Agriculture, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, dblee@cpp.edu, June 2016.

Introduction

There are two main species of persimmon grown in the United States: Diospyros kaki and Diospyros virginiana. Both have numerous cultivars, with the fruits of most cultivars displaying varying hues and brightness of the color orange (Morton, 1987).

Diospyros kaki is the predominant species commercially grown in the United States and is primarily grown in California, followed by Florida, and to a smaller degree in southeastern Texas (Ames, 2010) (Nardozzi, n.d.). It is native to Japan, China, Burma and the Himalayas and Khasi Hills of northern India and is commonly referred to as Asian, Japanese or Oriental persimmon. This profile will mainly refer to this species (Morton, 1987).

Diospyros virginiana is another species grown in the United States, however, it is grown on a much smaller scale and is not yet considered a commercial crop, although efforts are in place to research its potential (“American Persimmon” - University of Kentucky, 2011). It is native to Eastern North America and can be found from southern Connecticut and Long Island down to southern Florida; west through central Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, and central Illinois to southeast Iowa; and throughout eastern Kansas and Oklahoma, to the Colorado River Valley in Texas (Halls, 2009). It is commonly referred to as American or Common persimmon (Morton, 1987).

Persimmon cultivars are classified as astringent or non-astringent. Astringent persimmons need to be completely ripe, thus really soft before being palatable, whereas non-astringent persimmons are firm when ripe and can either be eaten firm or ripened further and eaten soft. Cultivars of the American persimmon are all astringent, while cultivars of Asian persimmons can be astringent or non-astringent (Blackstone, n.d.). Many delicious Asian persimmon cultivars can be grown in California; however, the most common astringent cultivar produced is Hachiya, and the most common non-astringent cultivar produced is Jiro. Another cultivar commonly grown and sold in California is the Fuyu, which is the most popular non-astringent cultivar grown in Japan (“Persimmon” – CRFG, 1996).

Asian persimmons are roughly the size of a peach, whereas American persimmons are closer in size to a plum (Parker & Reighard, 1999). If eaten when soft, the texture of both American and Asian persimmons is custard-like and the flavor is sweet with notes of honey (Parsons, 2014). The texture of firm fruit from non-astringent cultivars is similar to that of an apple, and the flavor, although still sweet, is a bit milder (“Persimmons” – CUESA, n.d.).

Marketing Channels

The marketing season for fresh persimmons are the fall months of September through December (Chaney, n.d.).

Selling persimmons (or any specialty crop) directly through farm stands, farmers’ markets, community supported agriculture (CSA), U-pick operations, and other direct marketing methods are promising ways for small-sale farms to add value to their crop. The direct marketing approach works well for many reasons, including, but not limited to eliminating an intermediary; potential to limit expenses for shipping and processing; providing customers with locally sourced products; product sampling; and the opportunity to more effectively educate customers about specialty crops (Swisher, 2016).  

Fresh non-astringent persimmons can be eaten as is (firm or soft) or can be sliced when firm and used in salads to add a pop of color and flavor. When soft, fresh astringent persimmons can be eaten as is or frozen to simulate an ice cream like texture (Nardozzi, n.d.).

To further add value, persimmons can be processed into many products including, but not limited to baked goods (cookies, cakes, etc.); custards; ice cream; preserves; puddings; and pulp Processed persimmon products can be found through all marketing channels (“American Persimmon” - University of Kentucky, 2011).

Drying persimmons is another processing technique that can add value to your crop. Dried persimmons are a favorite snack within Japanese communities, and the traditional drying method is called hoshigaki. This method is somewhat labor intensive; however, the processed fruit is becoming more popular with gourmet chefs and American consumers (“Japanese Massaged Dried” – Slow Food USA, n.d.) (Jung, 2015).

Both Asian and American persimmon trees have few pests; therefore organic production is another niche in which persimmon growers can take advantage of to add value (Ames, 2010).

Production

Four counties in California (Fresno, San Diego, Sutter and Tulare) produce the majority of commercial Asian persimmons domestically (“Persimmon in California” – UC Davis, n.d.) (“California County Agricultural Commissioners’ Reports”, CDFA, 2015).

The most current data on Asian persimmon production in the United States is from the crop year 2013-2014. In that year 1,913 acres were harvested, yielding an average of 5.39 tons of persimmons per acre, producing a state total of nearly 10,314 tons. The price per ton was $761.90 creating a state total value of almost $7.9 million (“California County Agricultural Commissioners’ Reports,” CDFA, 2015).

Exports/Imports/United States Consumption

During the 2015 market year, the United States exported 8.5 million pounds of fresh Asian persimmons valued at more than $6.3 million. The top buyers were Canada (purchasing over 93 percent of the total), followed by Mexico and Australia (“Fruit and Tree” - ERS, 2015).
In the same market year of 2015, the United States imported 6.9 million pounds of fresh Asian persimmons valued at $4.4 million. The Asian persimmon imports came mainly from Spain (providing nearly 50 percent of the total), followed by Israel, Chile, and South Africa (“Fruit and Tree” - ERS, 2015).

Management

Persimmon trees are tolerant of drought; however, regular irrigation (36-48 inches of water per year) promotes larger fruits and higher yields (Sumner, n.d.) (“Persimmon” – CRFG, 1996). Persimmon trees require a low amount of chill hours to induce flowering (depending on the cultivar <100-400 hours of 32-45 degrees Fahrenheit) (“Chill Hours” – Raintree, n.d.) (“Chill Hours And Dormancy” – Stanford, n.d.) (Zane, 2015). Although they require low chill hours, persimmon trees are relatively cold tolerant. American cultivars may survive temperatures as low as negative 20-25 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas Asian cultivars may be injured or killed when temperatures reach below 10 degrees Fahrenheit (Parker & Reighard, 1999).

Persimmon trees can have fluctuating yields from year to year. This tends to happen more when persimmon trees are not pruned and thinned correctly. It is recommended to prune persimmon trees into a “Y” or vase shape and to regularly thin out fruit, as a heavy crop load stresses the tree (Gillen, 1995).

American persimmon trees produce flowers that are either male or female, but not both; thus both sexes need to be present for cross pollination to take place and fruit to be produced. Asian persimmon trees may produce male, female, and/or perfect flowers on the same tree and do not need cross-pollination to set fruit. Many Asian cultivars are also parthenocarpic, meaning they produce seedless fruit without being pollinated. American and Asian persimmon trees will not cross-pollinate each other (Parker & Reighard, 1999) (Zimmerman, 2013).

Financial

Unfortunately, there are no enterprise budgets available for Asian persimmon; however, a publication by the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service has a brief section on economic considerations for producing American persimmon.

Sources

Ames. G. (2010). Persimmons, Asian and American, A National Sustainable Agriculture Assistance Program (ATTRA) - National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT).

American Persimmon, University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, 2011.

Blackstone, V.L. (n.d.). American Persimmon Varieties, SFGate.

California County Agricultural Commissioners’ Reports, California Department of Food and Agriculture, 2015.

Chaney, C. (n.d.). When is Persimmon Fruit in Season, SFGate.

Chill Hours, Raintree Nursery, n.d.

Chill Hours and Dormancy, Stanford University – Buildings and Ground Maintenance, n.d.

Gillen, A.M. (1995). Persimmon Fact Sheet, University of California, Davis, Fruit and Nut Research and Information.

Halls, L.K. (2009). Common Persimmon, United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Northeastern Area.

Fruit and Tree Nut Data - Exports/Imports, USDA Economic Research Service (ERS), 2015.

Japanese Massaged Dried Persimmon: Hoshigaki, Slow Food USA, n.d.

Jung, C. (2015). Hoshigaki time: Bay Area chefs embrace elaborate Japanese dried persimmons, San Francisco Chronicle.

Morton, J. (1987). Fruits of warm climates – Japanese Persimmon, Purdue University.

Nardozzi, C. (n.d.). Persimmons, The National Gardening Association.

Parker, D. & Reighard, G. (1999). Persimmon, Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service.

Parsons, R. (2014). The Persimmon Paradox: Two very different fruits, same sweet flavor, Los Angeles Times.

Persimmon, California Rare Fruit Growers, 1996.

Persimmon in California, University of California, Davis, Fruit and Nut Research and Information, n.d.

Persimmons, Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture, n.d.

Sumner, B. (n.d.). Perspectives on Persimmons, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California, UC Master Gardener Program of Sonoma County.

Swisher, M.E. (2016). An Overview of Small Farm Direct Marketing, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) - University of Florida.

Zane, N. (2015). The Importance of Chill Hours for Fruit Trees, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California, San Joaquin Master Gardeners.

Zimmerman, R. (2013). Persimmons, A Colorful Fruit of the Late Autumn, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California.

Links checked June 2016.