The persimmon is an edible fruit created by several species of small trees in the ebony family. Only one species is found in North America, even though the Oriental persimmon is commercially cultivated in the southeastern United States. The acorn-shaped fruit appears unappetizing and has a highly acidic character at first, but completely ripened fruit tastes sweet and mild. The fruit, which is technically a berry, has seeds which vary in amount depending on the species.
Also known as American persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), this species is indigenous to the southeastern United States and the lower Midwest. This small tree produces a circular fruit which resembles a plum with a waxy layer along with a flesh tone ranging from orange to purplish-black. As a dioecious tree, each specimen produces either male or female flowers but not both. Similarly, because only male trees create staminate flowers and just female trees create pistillate flowers, it is vital to bring the two together in order to attain fruit. Only the female persimmon bears fruit, which typically includes anywhere from one to 10 smooth, brown seeds.
This evergreen species, also known as black persimmon and chocolate persimmon (Diospyros digyna), is native to Mexico and Central America and developed as an ornamental in southern Florida. The flowers of the tree, which may have both male and female organs, yield a scent reminiscent of gardenia. The fruit emerges bright green but mellows to olive green at maturity. Inside, the ripe flesh is dark brown in color. Like its American cousin, the black persimmon fruit typically houses up to ten seeds, although sometimes the fruit is seedless.
Also known as purple blossom, butter fruit, mabolo and Korean mango (Diospyros blancoi), this species originates from the Philippine Islands. Its fruit, which frequently emerges in pairs, has skin that ranges in color from pink to orange, brown or dark red. The flesh imparts a flavor in contrast to as a cross between an apple and a banana, even though the peel provides off a cheeselike odor. An average of four to eight wedge-shaped seeds live within the fruit. Like D. digyna, however, the fruit is sometimes born seedless.
A few American persimmon cultivars produce fruit without seeds. “Meader” persimmon, for instance, is self-fruitful and yields orange seedless fruit. “Meader” can also be among the hardiest of American persimmons. It performs well in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 7 through 11, even tolerating temperatures to minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit. The persimmon cultivar “Hachiya” is cultivated in Hawaii and is also the standard selection created in California. “Hachiya” sets a fruit that, like many other cultivars, is seedless.