Kaki persimmons, or Japanese persimmons, are popular fruits available in autumn but did you know there is a persimmon tree native to North America?
The American Persimmon was a fascinating plant too early settlers but were actively used by Native American for both food and medicine. Persimmon loaves were often gifted to the settlers by the Native Americans. It soon became a favorite North American fruit. It wasn’t long before more recipes started to include persimmons.
There are many types of persimmon found around the world. Diospyros kaki is the most popular cultivated species that is native to Japan, China, and Korea. Kaki persimmons are what you can normally find in the store. Diospyros virginiana is native to eastern North America and not cultivated for its fruit. Their fruit is also delicious and a great food source for wildlife and pollen for honey bees. In the U.S., the American persimmon is grown for its wood.
Common Name: Common Persimmon, American Persimmon
Scientific Name: Diospyros virginiana
Leaves- simple, alternate, entire, egg-shaped, shiny, up to 5 inches long
Stem- brown; false end buds, 2-scaled buds, black, triangular; sing, large leaf scar, happy smile shaped
Bark- deeply furrowed, square like as it ages, not flaky, chocolate swirls or tire track marks under bark surface
Flower- greenish yellow, lobed, urn-shaped
Fruit- round, 1-2 inches, green when immature, orange with a white glaucous covering as it ripens, edible when soft
Height- 15-50 feet
Harvest Time: September-November
Parts Edible: bark, fruit
Found: Eastern United States, New England-Florida, Westward to Texas and Kansas; dry woods, old field, and clearings
-Native American once used the bark to treat venereal disease, sore throat
-Bark was chewed to relieve heartburn
-Fruit has been used in wine, beer, and brandy making with skins removed
-Unripe fruit was made into tinctures, syrup, and tea to treat bowel ailments that involved bleeding including diarrhea and dysentery
-Tea made from the bark was used a mouthwash for sore throats and thrush while topically it was used as a wash for warts and cancer
-An infusion of the seeds was once used in treating congestive heart failure
-Bark tea was also used in reducing fevers and treating stomachaches, heartburn, hemorrhoids, gonorrhea, and syphilis
-Oil made from the teas tastes similar to peanut oil
-The seeds have been used as a coffee replacement and to make buttons
-Ink has been made from persimmons
Vitamins, Minerals, & More
-Vitamins A, C
Properties: astringent when green
Bark Properties: astringent
-Fruit is used in baking as dried fruit or jam
-Fruit can be eaten as is when ripe
-Dried fruit can be found in teas
-Fruit contains tannins which can be toxic in large amounts. They lose a lot of their tannins as they ripen
-Do not consume unripe (green) persimmons
-The best time to harvest the fruit is during late autumn, preferably after a frost.
-Do not harvest green persimmons. Let them ripen to an orange color before harvesting.
Practicing Sustainable Wild Harvesting
- Only harvest plants you know are safe and can identify
- Only harvest plants in safe areas that are not contaminated or polluted
- Do not harvest on private property without permission
- Harvest no more than 10% or use the method: take 1 leave 2
- Know how to handle and prepare the plants you are harvesting
- Always check the legal status of the plant you want to harvest (is it endangered?)
–USDA Common Persimmon
–The Common Persimmon, the history of an underutilized fruit tree
–PFAF Diospyros virginiana
–Persimmon Health Benefits
–Missouri Botanical Garden Common Persimmon
–Foster, Steven, and James Duke A. Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs: Of Eastern and Central North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014. 371-72. Print.
-Profant, Dennis. Trees, Shrubs, and Vines of Southeastern Ohio and Appalachia. By Bill Perine. 4th ed. N.p.: n.p., 2007. 195. Print.