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I will never be able to forget my first experience with a persimmon tree when I was a youngster. We had just purchased land adjacent to the farm we owned in Texas. It was late afternoon when the whole family decided to explore the new property. I was at the age where curiosity always seemed to get the best of me. Coming across a persimmon tree, I quickly began asking questions about the greenish orange colored fruit on the tree. Finally my mother told me to pick one of the fruits and give it a try. Grabbing at the chance to try something new I took a large bite from the persimmon. Immediately my mouth and throat went totally dry leaving me unable to speak. It took about half an hour for this sensation to completely pass. But I had learned a valuable lesson about biting into a green persimmon.
Taking its name from the ebony tree of India, this tropical race of tree is a remote descendant of the tea family. The American Persimmon has fruit that is edible only late in the season. The succulent orange to brown fruit is best eaten after a frost when it is soft, juicy and sweet. These small to medium sized trees are deciduous and the Texas Persimmon is known to have black fruit that stains the hands and mouth. The persimmon is known to be astringent when not quite ripe and can leave one feeling like they have just experienced a mouth full of alum. The female flowers are bell shaped and white in color. They are sweetly scented and almost stalkless, appearing singly at the base of the leaves.
The common persimmon makes a straight tree with a distinctive dark bark in four squared patterns. Stately and tall, they can grow up to a narrow 60 to 70 feet tall. Persimmon trees grow well in swampy ground or near streams. The leaves turn a beautiful yellow color in the fall.
The Chinese persimmon tree is smaller and yet more ornamental serving up an apple sized yellow fruit. Although its flowers are green, giving them good camouflage, the leaves are glossy, broad and attractive. During the autumn, the leaves can turn orange, yellow or purple.
A tree with a dense rounded crown up to 70 feet tall with shiny dark green leaves and white sweetly scented bell shaped flowers born singly at the base of the leaves. Fruits are founded, or to purple brown, soft and juicy when ripe, sour when unripe. Four woody sepals persist on the fruit. Found in old fields, woodland margins, along roadsides and fenceways, in forest clearings and in bottomland. Eastern USA, south from Connecticut and west to Missouri.
The fruits ripen in early fall but they are very sour until after the first frost. When ready to eat, they are very soft and the skin is wrinkled. Eat fresh or use in fruit breads or pies. They can also be made into jam or frozen. The leaves can be steeped in boiling water to make a wonderfully delicious persimmon tea.