Book of Mediterranean Trees, Shrubs and Climbers


Diospyros kaki  Persimmon
Family Ebenaceae
Genus Diospyros    Gr dios divine and pyros wheat or grain
Species kaki   Native Japanes name
Properties tree
Diospyros kaki is the most widely cultivated species of the genus Diospyros. Although its first published botanical description was not until 1780, the kaki is among the oldest plants in cultivation, known for its use in China for more than 2000 years. In some rural Chinese communities, the kaki fruit is seen as having a great mystical power that can be harnessed to solve headaches, back pains and foot ache. The persimmon (kaki) is a sweet, slightly tangy fruit with a soft to occasionally fibrous texture. This species, native to China, is deciduous, with broad, stiff leaves. Cultivation extended first to other parts of East Asia and was later introduced to California and southern Europe in the 19th century, to Brazil in the 1890s, and numerous cultivars have been selected. A variety is Diospyros kaki var. sylvestris Makino.When ripe, this fruit comprises thick pulpy jelly encased in a waxy thin-skinned shell. In many cultivars, known as the astringent varieties, the fruit has a high proanthocyanidin-type tannin content which makes the immature fruit astringent and bitter. The tannin levels are reduced as the fruit matures. It is not edible in its crisp, firm state; it tastes best when allowed to rest and soften after harvest. It has a soft jelly-like consistency and is best eaten with a spoon. The Japanese 'Hachiya' is a widely grown astringent cultivar. Other cultivars, such as Fuyu, do not contain tannins when firm. They can be eaten like an apple or can be allowed to go to any stage of ripeness, including to the jelly-like stage. These non-astringent varieties are considered to have a less complex flavor. "Sharon Fruit" (named originally after Sharon plain in Israel) is the trade name for non-astringent D. kaki fruit.
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