Persimmons are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, dietary fiber and manganese. Vitamins A and C help strengthen the immune system, maintain healthy vision and defend the body against harmful free radicals. Some notable antioxidant properties help reduce inflammation, prevent plaque buildup in blood vessels and maintain the elasticity of the inner lining of organs that have epithelial cells. Their excellent fiber promotes digestive efficiency and helps prevent the buildup of bad (LDL) cholesterol. They are also noted for their tannins, proanthocyanidins and other phytonutrients including beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin, cryptoxanthin, catechins, gallocatechins, betulinic acid and shibuol. All act as protective antioxidants throughout the body. Shibuol is a double-edged sword, however, because it can cause globs to form in the digestive tract. For this reason, wait for persimmons to ripen, and do not eat astringent varieties on an empty stomach. The tannin concentration of shibuol is very low in soft, ripened persimmons. Eating them with food in the stomach mixes them in, and they react less with stomach acids. Proanthocyanidins in the skin are linked to helping metabolic processes within cells, preventing unnecessary blood clots from forming, protecting blood vessel cells from hardening and lowering blood pressure. The nutrient content and value of a persimmon depends on which cultivar you choose and how healthy it develops. For its high antioxidant content, this is a promising fruit for overall health.
Vitamin and Mineral Content
Vitamins – A, C, B6 (Pyridoxine) and E
Minerals – Manganese
In addition to protective vitamins, the phytonutrients work in slightly separate ways, which may contribute to an overall lower risk for many cancers, macular degeneration, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Also, cigarette smoke can deplete the body of vitamin A. Persimmons are a great source of vitamin A and may help prevent or forestall emphysema.
How to Grow
American persimmon trees, growing about 40 feet high, produce smaller fruits than Asian varieties and can tolerate brief periods of temperatures down to –20˚F. Asian persimmons grow larger fruit on shorter trees (about 30 feet high) but can tolerate temperatures only down to 0˚F. Get a cultivar from a trusted local nursery that can guide you on a particular variety suited for your area. They are self-fertile, but bear more fruit if you grow more than one tree. Both varieties prefer a lot of sun. Early spring is great for planting. Before planting, prepare the soil by digging a big hole and amending the dug up soil as well as some of the surrounding soil with fertile organic matter, such as compost or planting mix. Adding compost tea or manure tea is smart when planting fruit trees. Plant bare root trees in a hole big enough so that the roots are free and the soil line on the trunk matches the ground level. Fill in the hole with the amended soil and pack down. The compost mulch provides plenty of nutrients for healthy growth. A small application of fertilizer once a year helps. Give Asian persimmons a little shelter by planting near a house or other trees. You may need to stake in a windy area. Space them about 20 feet apart if you plan to grow more than one. Persimmons need little pruning. If you want to control the size, prune every spring before buds form. Since persimmons produce fruit on new wood, pruning back old wood encourages new growth and leads to more fruit. When trimming, train the tree to grow around a central leading shoot that grows roughly straight up. Trim down desired shoots to the outward growing branch they grew from. Persimmons usually ripen for harvest in early to mid-autumn. Clip off the fruit when it’s still firm. Let the astringent varieties soften fully before eating.
Persimmons are pest free and tolerant in the home garden. Check with the nursery to see if your area has pests to watch for. Sometimes citrus mealy bug, borers, Psylla and scale can be a problem. Growing a tree in healthy, highly fertile soil is the best way to defend against most pests and diseases. Psylla are invisible to the eye but excrete a visible honeydew that enables a black mold to grow on the foliage. If you notice these symptoms and find the insects on inspection with a lens, or if the leaves at the top of the tree begin to turn black, spray with an insecticidal soap that has rotenone or other recommended treatment. Mealy bugs look like little white furs and live underneath leaves or stems. If noticed, spray with an insecticidal soap. Borers will enter into the lower trunk or injured limbs. If you see gooey sawdust next to a small hole, probe up into the hole to kill the borer. If the hole is on the lower trunk, close it off with paraffin or putty. If on an injured limb, remove the limb and seal off with the same material. If scale appears, spray with a copper fungicide and dispose of the leaves after they fall.
Persimmons produce many root suckers. Remove them on sight. Mulching over the root area helps deter them. Never eat unripe, astringent persimmons. They have chemicals inside that can lead to stones and intestinal disruption. Also, choose a young persimmon tree with a relatively small taproot, which transplants better. Ask the nursery about the persimmon’s astringency.