To get the best fruit off your persimmon tree, knowing the correct timing is important. Leave it on the tree to long, and you will lose much of your crop to hungry birds and animals.
Types of Persimmons
In the United States, there are two types of persimmons regularly found, native persimmons and oriental persimmons.
Native persimmons grow wild in the southeastern states. A few of these trees have been cultivated and developed into specific varieties available on the market. They produce fruit about the size of a plum. They tend to be astringent until very soft and fully ripe.
Oriental persimmons produce fruit about the size of a peach. They are not as hardy as the native varieties. Oriental persimmons can be broken into two subgroups, astringent and non-astringent, each having a different time of peak ripeness.
When to Harvest
Astringent Varieties: Allowing astringent persimmons to fully ripened and become soft on the tree is ideal. However, if they sit on the tree too long there may not be many left once the birds, deer, raccoons, and other animals get to the trees. Due to the competition for the fruit, harvesting usually happens in the early fall, when the days are still a little warm. Harvest astringent persimmons when they are hard and fully colored. Allow them to fully ripen at room temperature in a protected location. They are ready to eat once they are very soft.
Non-astringent Varieties: Non-astringent persimmons are ready to harvest when they have their full, deep color. They are ripe and ready to be eaten when they are picked. Allowing them to soften will help with the taste, but they are ready at harvest time.
TIP: Our expert gardening advisor Karen Thurber adds, "Persimmons do not require a frost to become editable. A frost can actually damage immature fruit."
For astringent persimmon, ideally, harvest the fruit when it is loose on the tree and easily falls to the ground. However, since there is much competition from wildlife for the fruit and it easily bruises, the fruit is often harvested before peak ripeness and is allowed to ripen at room temperature.
To harvest fruit, cut from the tree with hand pruners or a knife, leaving a small stem attached to the fruit. Use a flat, shallow tray to collect them. Unlike fruits that can be stacked, persimmons cannot handle a lot of weight and will bruise easily. If you put too many on top of each other, they will crush the ones on the bottom.
Ripen Off the Tree
Astringent persimmons will continue to ripen off of the tree when they are kept at room temperature. They will be very soft when they are ripe.
TIP: Karen recommends, "To speed the ripening of harvested astringent persimmons, place in a paper bag with a ripe apple or banana. The ethylene produced by the fruit will speed the ripening of the persimmon."
After you have harvested your persimmon fruits, you need to store them so they will not go bad shortly after. Newly picked, unripe, hard astringent persimmons can be kept in the refrigerator for at least a month and can be frozen for up to 8 months.
The nonastringent persimmons can be stored for a short period of time at room temperature. They tend to soften too much if kept in the refrigerator with other fruits.