Origin and distribution
Persimmon commonly called as Japanese persimmon. It belongs to the family Ebenaceae and is native to China, while wild species occurring in Western Himalaya (D. lotus) is native of Caucasian region. Persimmon was introduced by Europeans in 1921 in Kullu valley of Himachal Pradesh. It is adapted well in the elevations ranging from 900- 2000 m in the Himalayan region, require 200- 250 chilling hours.
The American persimmon (D. virginiana) is native to eastern United States and is higher in nutrients like vitamin C and calcium than Japanese persimmon. Black persimmon (D. digyna) is native to Mexico. Its fruit has green skin and white flesh, which turns black when ripe. Velvet-apple (D. discolor) is native to Philippines, its fruit is bright red when ripe. It is also considered native to China, where it is known as “Shizi”. There are many other species of Diospyros that are not edible, thus have little or no commercial value for their fruit, however, they are used for some industrial purposes. Major Persimmon producing countries are China, Korea, Japan, Brazil, Italy and Israel.
It is a monoecious tree grows up to a height of about 5-15 m. The trees are deciduous and complete their dormancy in the middle of February. The dormant trees, can tolerate fairly low temperature as low as -150C. Non-astringent cultivars require warmer conditions for fruit maturation than the astringent types. Leaves are large, dark green, ovate and flowers light creamy.
Flowering starts in the mid of March and continues up to second fortnight of April. Fruits are flat-globose, conical globose, with orange, reddish orange and orangish red colour, which mature in September- October. Flesh colour is orange with fibrous pulpy texture. The fruits are sweet in taste when fully ripened in case of astringent types while non-astringent types can be eaten muck like apple. Non-astringent types have longer shelf life of about 15-20 days than astringent types at ambient temperature.
Nutritional value and uses
Persimmon fruits are eaten fresh, dried, raw or cooked. When eaten fresh, the skin is usually peeled off and the fruit is cut into quarters or eaten whole like an apple. Fruits of amlook (D.lotus), which turns dark brown when ripe are generally used as prasad distributes in the temples of the hilly region after worship of god. In North America, fine grained wood of D. virginiana is used to manufacture billiard cues, textile shuttles and high-quality heads of the golf club.
Persimmon can be grown in a wide range of sub-tropical and sub temperate climate and thrives in well-drained light soils, which have good subsoil containing some clay with pH range 5.8 to 6.5. It can be propagated by grafting or budding onto rootstocks of wild persimmon. Planting is done in autumn in the well-prepared pits at a distance of 6 x 6 m for tall cultivars. However, for dwarf cultivars like Ichkikei and Jiro the planting distance can be kept 4 x 3 m and for semi dwarf cultivars like Fuyu at 5 m x 3 m.
After planting, the trees should be trained to form a low head which can be done by using modified central leader system. The pruning is done during winter, only for removing weak, interfering, discarded or insect damage shoot in the month of January. In autumn, doses of FYM @ of 20-25 kg and 500 g NPK in the ratio of 2:1:1 may be applied /tree per year to harvest a good crop. Persimmon should be harvested when they have attained yellow to reddish colour. Fruits should be clipped with short stem shears leaving the calyx attached. Flesh is sweet and jelly like and Brix range from 140 to 180.
A total of 13 accessions of persimmon is being maintained in the field gene bank at Shimla. Besides, three accessions of persimmon (Fuyu, Hyakume and Hatchia) are also maintained at Dr Y S Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, Solan. Three persimmon accessions i.e. Fuya (EC28539), Hyakume (EC552664), and Hachia (EC552665) introduced from the USA have been characterized for horticultural traits. Average fruit length is 60mm, diameter 90mm, fruit weight 150 g (Fuyu), 255 g (Hachia) and 485 g (Hyakume). The variety Fuyu has high productivity and fruits are nonastringent, therefore has great commercial value. Other species that are being maintained here include D. lotus, D. montana and D. virginiana. Commercial cultivars available in other countries include Chocolate, Coffeecake, Izu, Meader, Nikita’s gift, and Saijo.
- National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources Regional Station Phagli, Shimla