Patience Rewarded

by Daisy on 09/04/2013

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Several native persimmon trees stood in a small grove in the yard of the house in which I grew up.

They were messy in the fall of the year when the fruit was ripe and littered the ground. I remember well the unique sensation of stepping on persimmons in bare feet, cool, mushy, and slick.  And when shod, not easy to remove from boot or sneaker soles.

I always liked the persimmon trees, despite the messiness, and despite the fact that we didn’t make the most of them as a food crop.  They were so sweet and rich they were almost too rich, a bit like a date.  To me as a child they weren’t worth the trouble of eating around the large, numerous seeds. However, the extremely astringent, unripe fruit was very useful for pranking city folks who were unfamiliar with the extreme effects of biting into one of them.

There’s nothing quite like a green persimmon face.

This spring I planted a persimmon tree in our own yard.

Instead of a native tree, I chose a Japanese variety, Saijo.  Unlike the natives, these persimmon trees have (usually) seedless fruit. The fruit is also larger-sized than the ones I remember, and the trees, like our natives, are heat- and humidity-tolerant.

The tree I planted was about three to four feet tall, and branched.  I planted it well and surrounded it with comfrey, the beginnings of a fruit tree guild.  If you are unfamiliar with tree guilds, the term refers to a combination of multi-functioning plants around a fruit or nut tree or shrub. The combination of plants works in a mutually beneficial way.  For example, nectary plants to lure pollinators and shade roots, nitrogen-fixers to improve the soil, daffodil bulbs to discourage tunneling voles, comfrey to mine minerals from deep in the earth, etc.

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Mother Nature and I kept it watered, but months passed and no signs of life.  Nonetheless, when I scratched the bark the tissue beneath was still green and very much alive.  More months passed. Nothing, not even a swelling.

Finally, nearly six months after being set out, the first buds showed themselves, and a few days later, green leaves began to emerge.  They are beautiful and fresh, and worth waiting for, even with fall just around the bend.

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I’m looking forward to our first persimmons.  It may take a few years yet to see fruit, but I hope one day before too long I will once again have ripe persimmons in my yard.

And before that, a few unripe ones for the city slickers.



{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Cinnamon Vogue September 4, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Wow nicely written and how lucky you are to live in this green belt. I had to google what this persimmon tree was about. 🙂 It looks very interesting and quite an attractive tree. Wonder what color the fruit will be? However I am not sure about the location of the tree. Isn’t it too close to that box with netting? From what I understand thes trees get big and also need some support.

Jeff Atnip September 4, 2013 at 3:03 pm

A fun thing we used to do was to wait until the persimmons were ripe and dropping. Then lure someone under the tree, kick the trunk and run. The persimmons drop like a sudden rain shower and if you are quick, you can escape, while your victim is pummeled.

Daisy September 4, 2013 at 3:12 pm

JA–Charming. Must have been magic to have been, say, a younger sibling of yours.

Daisy September 4, 2013 at 3:14 pm

CV–Thank you! It will get fairly big over time but I don’t think it will need to be supported. Behind it is the chicken run. They’ll probably enjoy the windfalls!

Carey September 5, 2013 at 5:33 am

Thanks for this great article! I’m very new at growing fruit and was intrigued by the term guild, used in permaculture. I am growing cherry trees and peaches in Iowa. Do you have recommended reading specific to orchard guilds?

Amy September 5, 2013 at 6:24 am

How ’bout a ripe persimmon fight? Now that can get sticky.
But nothin’ beats eating their sweet fruit right from the tree. Dogs like ’em too:-)

Daisy September 5, 2013 at 6:46 am

Carey–Thank you! I would check out the forums at permies.com, then for a basic permaculture book try Hemenway’s Gaia’s Garden. Best of luck with what sounds like a worthy and delicious effort.

Jane September 7, 2013 at 8:40 am

This post intrigues me, esp. The complementary plantings. COuld you do a post regarding which plants fall into which category please. I love gardening and have just this past year planted many fruit trees ( Pear, Peach, Plum, Cherry and of course 2 different varieties of apples but am at a loss as to what ground cover to surround the trees with. I live in Zone 4 and our winteres can be severe.
I’ve been a follower of yours for years.. Thanks! Jane

Melodae Farley September 7, 2013 at 9:03 am

No recipe for persimmon bread? It’s a great treat with that cuppa.

Wanda September 7, 2013 at 9:50 am

Your choice of the Japanese variety is perfect. I live in Japan for many years and couldn’t wait to visit the many small market stall near my home to get these persimmons when they were in season. They are the best variety I’ve tasted. I remember my grandfather had an American variety and oh my that were bitter. Good luck with the fruit tree and thanks for the lesson in tree guilds.

Dianne September 7, 2013 at 10:01 am

My aunt and uncle moved into a little shotgun house right after they were married. Some of the first things they did was clear land for a garden, set up pens for rabbits, and plant fruit and nut trees. About 25 years later her brother had this daughter. When this daughter grew up, her niece, she introduced me to Japanese persimmons….in all their splendor. She made persimmon bread, persimmon pudding, frozen persimmons, and, best of all, ripe persimmons right off the tree. The two trees stood firm, and weathered many storms and hurricanes….but, alas, Katrina took them down for good. It was almost like a death in the family for me. She did tell me that you needed two trees to guarantee good fruit. I have not found a steady supply of persimmons since…and I don’t really know anyone that has any….though I see the wild ones often. I never cared for the wild ones, and when we moved into our home a bit over 25 years ago, I cut the one down that was growing in out back yard. It, unfortunately was too near the perfect clothesline site. Thank you for your article. I think I am going to have to try to get a tree myself! I have grandchildren that should walk a bit of the path I got blessed to walk on!
Sharon

Daisy September 7, 2013 at 12:08 pm

Wanda–I appreciate the confirmation of our choice. Good to hear from someone with firsthand experience.

Daisy September 7, 2013 at 12:12 pm

So sorry for the loss of your trees. I have ordered a companion for the Saijo to plant in the fall and hope they will be very happy together. I understand about the clothesline site. We had a honey locust near our clothesline which was suicidal as it had fierce thorns that made walking in the area pretty terrifying.

Daisy September 7, 2013 at 12:12 pm

Melodae Farley–As soon as those persimmons start coming in!

Daisy September 7, 2013 at 12:15 pm

Jane–I need to do that. Hopefully this fall when I put in some more trees. Thank you very much for reading along!

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