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Harvest and Pruning of Cultivated Persimmon Varieties

Posts: 170
Location: Missouri Ozarks
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I've noticed the information on the care of cultivated persimmons, particularly American varieties and American/Asian hybrids, is hard to come by and/or contradictory, so I'd like to share my own limited experience on the subject and hope others with fruiting trees will share their experiences.

I have two cultivated persimmon varieties that have been fruiting heavily for a few years, Juhl and Rosseyanka, plus other varieties that are smaller. The persimmons have proven to be resilient and have few of the pest, disease and rot issues that make many common fruits difficult to grow here in southern Missouri. So far, my pruning of the trees has been fairly minimal, just training to a central leader, thinning branches a bit, taking of some real low branches near the ground, and topping off the central leader of the Rosseyanka the last couple of years to keep its height in check. However, I think I'll do some more substantial pruning this next year of the Rosseyanka at least, for reasons I'll discuss in a bit. I have been harvesting wild persimmons for years, but I've found the cultivated ones are more tricky. Altogether, I like the flavor of the cultivated varieties better, and they're larger and more productive, but there are downsides in the realm of harvesting. The wild ones have small, firm enough fruit that is small and firm enough that it can drop from large trees, 50 feet up or so, and still be intact when it hits the ground, so its simple to just harvest them of the ground. The cultivated varieties are different, particularly the Rosseyanka.

The Juhl is a selected variety of American persimmon, also known as Yates. It ripens early, starting generally late August here, with fruits continuing to ripen for at least a month. I particularly like the texture for eating, it has a more smooth texture than the wild ones, as well as being significantly larger. They fall from the tree when ripe, similar to the wild persimmons. I have been harvesting these from the ground like the wild ones so far, but I noticed this year a percentage that got crushed in their fall to the ground. It was still a fairly small percentage, but I'm concerned that it will be higher as the tree grows taller, as the fruit from higher up will hit the ground with more force. It seems the larger size and creamier texture that's nice for eating may make the fruit more fragile as well. I'm considering pruning the tree more heavily to keep it from getting too tall (it's probably about 15 ft high right now), also maybe mulching heavily underneath it before harvest to cushion the fall of the fruit. Those sound a lot earier than harvesting from the tree does, as the fruit ripens so unevenly and just wants to fall off when its ripe.

The Rosseyanka is a different matter. It is a cross between the American and the Asian persimmon. It ripens late in the fall, has pretty large fruit, is tasty and productive, but has been very annoying to harvest for me so far. It has very fragile fruit that cling on to the tree. If the fruit gets too ripe, it will simply disintegrate and fall off, leaving the stem end still clinging to the tree. The first few years of harvest, I harvested them before the first hard freeze (generally the end of October or early November). Few were ripe by that time, but the others ripened inside over the course of several weeks. I had to use hand pruners and clip off the fruit stem with one hand while holding onto them with the other hand, as the stem will not break odd readily like an apple or pear stem will. That makes getting to the higher up fruit really annoying, as I have to get up a ladder or into the tree with two hands free, and I need a helper to hand the fruit down to, because if the fruit is close to ripe, it can be easily crushed in the sort of picking bags that I use for apples. This year I had someone on the ground holding a picking pole up to me, I'd pick several fruit and put them into the small basket at the end, and then he'd bring it down and put them in boxes. I can't use the picking pole directly to pick the fruit as the fruit are too fragile and the stems too strong (pull hard and it will likely break off partway up the branch rather than just breaking off the fruit).

This year, I decided to wait longer to pick the Rosseyanka fruit, after hearing that it could stand substantial freezes on the tree. They went through a night in the low 20s, and I finally picked them yesterday. I'm thinking it was a mistake to wait this long. Such low temperatures don't ruin the fruit, but they changes the texture of some, particularly those that weren't fully ripe, making them more mealy. The very ripe, squishy ones weren't noticeably affected, those were very tasty, but very ripe Rosseyankas are also extremely fragile and will crush or puncture easily. In the future, I think I'll harvest them before we get a hard freeze, anything down to the upper 20s or below. They are easier to handle when they're not fully ripe as well, and seem to ripen up perfectly well indoors even if it takes a few weeks.

I'm thinking at this point that in March when it's pruning time that I'll open up the Rosseyanka a lot to make access easier, plus prune the central leader back harder than I have been to limit its height. But if anyone has any helpful tips on the harvest, pruning and care of cultivated persimmon varieties of bearing age, I'm all ears.
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