Common Persimmon – Diospyros virginiana
The first part of the Persimmon tree’s latin name Diospyros loosely translates to mean divine fruit. Upon seeing the gloriously glowing orange-hued fruit you may be tempted to take a bite, only to find that your taste experience will differ dramatically depending on the ripeness of the Persimmon.
Captain John Smith of the Jamestown Colony established in 1607 warns, “If it be not ripe, it will draw a man’s mouth awrie with much torment.”
His statement perfectly characterizes the astringent puckering effect of the tannin contained in the unripened fruit.
Persimmon trees once stood along Lincoln Avenue. In the Bellevue Centennial Book, page thirteen features a delightful commentary of local children sharing the fruit with their cousins visiting from the city.
“When our city cousins came to visit, with their insidious comparisons between city and country ways, our means of retaliation was to escort them to these trees (Persimmon) for a taste…they always choose the plump fruit while we took the squashy. Our resulting glee may have been diabolic, but fun!”
The fruits of the Common Persimmon are similar in form to tomatoes and roughly the size of a ping-pong ball. You may have seen larger Persimmon fruits like ‘Fuyu’ and ‘Hachiya’ in the store, these are from other varieties of Persimmon trees. Like the tomato, the Persimmon fruit is a true berry containing as many as eight seeds in its pale translucent flesh.
When ripe, the texture and mouthfeel of the Persimmon fruit is similar to the flesh of a very ripe apricot with a nearly inscrutable nuanced flavor reminiscent of dutch applesauce. An elaborate spice combination called speculaaskruiden flavors dutch applesauce containing a blend of cloves, cinnamon, ginger, mace, nutmeg, cardamom, coriander, anise, and white pepper.
The Persimmon fruit serves as a not so gentle reminder that patience is a virtue and that good things come to those who wait!
Bayne Park’s Persimmon tree (which I fondly refer to as Richard Persimmons in honor of the 80’s fitness guru) is located in the southern portion of the park and is most easily recognized by its bark when there is not a dusty orange profusion of fruit dangling from the drooping branches. The bark surface is deeply cut into small scaly plates or blocks which look similar to lumps of coal.
The Persimmon leaves are elliptic in shape and are dark green and shiny on top and paler green underneath.
Fragrant, small, white to greenish-yellow flowers bloom in late spring. The light and powdery pollen is generally distributed by bees but it can also be carried great distances by the wind.
Possums, Raccoons, Skunks, Deer, and birds like Catbirds, American Robins, Cedar Waxwings, and Mockingbirds feed upon the fruit.
The Persimmon can also serve as a host trees for the Luna Moth, if you are lucky you may spot a female Luna Moth laying brownish eggs in small groups on the underside of one of the Persimmon’s large leaves.
Persimmon wood is used for turned objects, golf club heads, veneer, shuttles in the textile industry, billiard cues, and musical instruments.
During the1993 Masters Bernhard Langer claimed his second Masters win, he was the last player to win a major using a Persimmon driver.
Who could resist mouthwatering recipes for Persimmon Hickory Nut Bread, Roasted Persimmon Salad Dressing, Persimmon Pudding, and Persimmon Nut Chiffon Pie? Find these recipies and much more in Eating Appalachia: Rediscovering Regional American Flavors by Darrin Nordahl. It is the perfect book to explore all the unique flavorful foods that are native to our region.
Thank you for joining us and virtually meeting our Persimmon tree at Bayne Park today. Although Bayne Park is currently closed, we hope this virtual experience helps you to feel connected to the trees and we encourage you to visit the trees in person once Bayne Park reopens.
Check back every Treesday Tuesday for the next virtual installment of Meet a Tree from Bayne Park!