|Botanical details of buds, flowers and fruit|
The Chinese character for "persimmon"
Diospyros kaki, the Oriental persimmon, Japanese persimmon or kaki (from the Japanese name 柿, pronounced [kaki]), is the most widely cultivated species of the genus Diospyros. Although its first botanical description was not published until 1780, the kaki is among the oldest cultivated plants, having been in use in China for more than 2000 years. In some rural Chinese communities, the kaki fruit is seen as having a great mystical power that can be harnessed to cure headaches, back pains and foot ache.
The scientific name Diospyros kaki L. f. may be used erroneously for this plant. However, Diospyros kaki L. f., published in 1781, is a later homonym of Diospyros kaki Thunb., published in 1780. So the name Diospyros kaki L. f. is taxonomically illegitimate and not accepted.
Similar in shape to an apple tree, the kaki tree reaches a size of up to 10 metres (33 ft). Its deciduous leaves are medium to dark green, broadly lanceolate, stiff and equally wide as long. Blooming from May to June, the trees are typically either male or female, but some produce both types of flowers. Furthermore, the sexual expression of a tree may vary from year to year. Unusually, the kaki fruits ripen when the leaves have mostly fallen off the tree, typically in October and November. (Northern Hemisphere)
Kaki trees typically do not bear until they are 3 to 6 years old. The 2 centimetres (1 in)-2.5 centimetres (1 in) wide flowers appear in late spring or early summer depending on variety and growing area. The tubular flowers have a creamy white color. Female flowers grow singly, while male flowers sometimes may have a pink tint and tend to appear in clusters of three. Diospyros kaki is typically a dioecious species which means that trees are either male or female but some cultivated varieties are monoecious in which case both male and female and even perfect (male+female) flowers can be found on the same tree. The flowers have four crown-shaped sepals and four petals that form a large calyx.
All varieties (parthenocarpic) will produce seedless fruit in the absence of pollination, but their pollinated flowers will produce more fruit riddled with seeds. Kaki typically suffers very important fruit drop. The first flush of fruit drop happens shortly after flowering when +/- 50% of the fruit will drop. The second flush happens in August when again an important amount of fruit will drop. After this, the rest of the fruit will usually stay on the tree and mature. Fruit drop depends on climatic conditions and water availability. Pollination is not necessary for fruit set but may help to reduce fruit drop after averse climatic conditions or drought periods.
The persimmon is an edible sweet, slightly tangy fruit with a soft to occasionally fibrous texture. This species, native to China, is deciduous, with broad, stiff leaves. Cultivation extended first to other parts of East Asia, including Japan where it is very popular. It was later introduced to California and southern Europe in the 19th century, to Brazil in the 1890s, and numerous cultivars have been selected. A variety is Diospyros kaki var. sylvestris Makino. When ripe, this fruit comprises thick pulpy jelly encased in a waxy thin-skinned shell.
The spherical to oval fruit, bearing the indented stem and four sepals, can weigh up to 500 grams (18 oz). The smooth, shiny, thin shell ranges in shade from yellow to red-orange. The slightly lighter fleshed fruits can contain up to eight seeds and may have an astringent taste. With increasing maturity, the fruit softens, similar to a kiwifruit.
The high content of tannin in the still-immature kaki provides a bitter component reminiscent of a raw unpeeled chestnut, which becomes weaker with progressive maturation. The furry taste, caused by the tannins, is reduced and finally completely disappears during the ripening process.
There are four basic types of kaki varieties. This classification depends on the tannin solubility and the presence of seeds. Soluble tannin means that the fruit will have an acrid taste. Insoluble tannin means that there is no acrid taste. In some cases, the presence of seeds will turn the tannin insoluble in the whole of the fruit and in other cases only just around the seeds. this results in the following classification:
- PCA type: Pollination constant astringent. These kakis will always have a bitter taste until they have become completely soft. The softening process turns the tannin insoluble after which all bitterness has disappeared and the sweet fruit can be enjoyed.
- PCNA type: Pollination constant non astringent. This is a relatively recent mutation in kaki fruit (a few centuries). In this type of kaki the tannin is always insoluble even when the fruit is still hard. This fruit will always taste sweet without any bitterness in the hard or soft stage.
- PVNA type: Pollination variant non astringent. This type of fruit has to become soft before it is edible except if it is seeded. A substance in the seed makes the tannin insoluble and thus the fruit will be sweet even when it is still hard. Even one seed is usually sufficient to make the fruit edible. Fruit from the same tree that does not contain seed will taste bitter and needs to soften before it becomes edible.
- PVA type: Pollination variant astringent. This type of kaki is similar to the previous type but in this case only the flesh around the seeds will have no bitter taste. The rest of the fruit will taste bitter. This is due to a different process in tannin neutralization by the seeds. The result is that sometimes only half of the fruit (the part containing seeds) may be edible and the other half will be bitter if it contains no seeds.
Practically and commercially only the first two kaki types are important. The other two types are considered astringent kakis for practical reasons and are handled just like the PCA type fruit
Kaki are grown worldwide, with 90 percent of the total in China, Japan and Korea. In East Asia the main harvest time for kaki is in the months of October and November. The trees lose their leaves by harvest time. Occasionally, the brightly colored fruit is left unharvested on the tree as a decorative effect.
Cultivation of this species at first spread through East Asia. Since the 19th century, kaki partially replaced date-plum (Diospyros lotus, also known as Caucasian persimmon) in some countries in South Europe and West Asia, because kaki have bigger fruits than date-plum; cultivation in California began at that time.
The "Sharon" is a trade name for the "Triumph" variety grown in the fertile Plain of Sharon in Israel. It is a PCA variety which is always treated with CO2 gas to remove astringency before it is marketed. This kaki has a rather squarish shape and it has one of the highest sugar contents of all varieties. Unlike most other varieties, it has a very firm skin which gives it good keeping qualities and good resistance to handling.
In Spain, the most important kaki variety is "Rojo Brillante". This PCA variety is mostly grown in the Valencia region in a protected region of origin (DOP) called the "Ribera del Xuquer". During the last decade a CO2 treatment procedure has been perfectioned by which nearly all Rojo Brillante kakis are treated to remove astringency while still retaining their firmness and keeping qualities. This treated kaki fruit is marketed as Spanish Persimon (with one 'm'). Because of this treatment, the "Rojo brillante" kaki has turned into an easily edible fruit which has become highly appreciated in the whole of Europe and beyond. Because of this commercial success the production of "Rojo brillante in the last decade has hugely augmented.
In Italy the most widely grown variety is "Tipo" (PCA) and some other varieties in smaller quantities. Italy used to be the largest kaki exporting country in Europe but export has diminished significantly due to the success of the Spanish kaki export. This drop in export is entirely due to the fact that until now Italian kakis are not CO2 treated and thus can only be eaten after they have turned soft. Italy has recently developed a CO2 treatment procedure that can be used on the Tipo variety but it is not commonly used yet. This might help in regaining part of the export in the future.
Kaki is also produced in Albania, mainly in the Elbasan region. Since 1935–40, it is also grown in small quantities in Bulgaria, particularly in the Upper Thracian Plain and on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast.
In astringent cultivars (cultivated varieties), the fruit has a high proanthocyanidin-type tannin content which makes the immature fruit astringent and bitter. The tannin levels are reduced as the fruit matures. The fruit of those cultivars is not edible in its crisp, firm state; they're edible when soft ripe. The ripe fruit has a soft jelly-like consistency. The Japanese 'Hachiya' is a widely grown astringent cultivar. Other cultivars, such as 'Fuyu', do not contain tannins when firm. Those can be eaten like an apple or can be allowed to go to any stage of ripeness, including to the jelly-like stage. These non-astringent varieties are, however, considered to have a less complex flavor.
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Throughout Asia, healing properties are attributed to the kaki. They are said to be helpful against stomach ailments and diarrhea. Immature fruits are said to be a treatment for fever, if they ripen in containers until they are sweet as honey. The juice of unripe fruit is said to lower blood pressure and the fruit stem to relieve a cough. To reinforce these effects, the fruit is peeled before use, exposed to the sunlight during the day and to the dew at night, until a white powdery coating forms.
A vase adorned with a kaki cake, a pine branch and an orange is a symbol of the desire for "great happiness in 100 affairs."
The leaves are commonly removed before serving. Though the skin is often removed, it may be eaten -- especially when the fruit has ripened and the tannins have significantly broken down, reducing the acridity. They can also be dried; two fruits are attached to a string which is then hung over a pole.
In Korea, the persimmon is called gam (Korean: 감), and it is usually eaten as a dessert or when there are guests at home. The persimmon is cut into sections and the skin and core is usually removed. Persimmons are eaten dry during the winter, and they are very popular amongst children. In autumn, families and farmers from the rural areas collect persimmons and hang them to dry. Powdered sugar is sometimes added to enhance the sweetness.
Persimmon vinegar may be made from Oriental persimmons.
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- Lee, Sangtae; Chang, Kae Sun, eds. (2015). English Names for Korean Native Plants (PDF). Pocheon: Korea National Arboretum. p. 443. ISBN 978-89-97450-98-5. Retrieved 12 March 2019 – via Korea Forest Service.
- "Diospyros kaki". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 18 September 2020.
- Published in Nova Acta Soc. Sc. Upsal. iii. 208, author Carl Peter Thunberg, [Thunb.] (1780); later in Fl. Jap. 157, author Thunb. (1784)."Plant Name Details for Diospyros kaki". IPNI. Retrieved October 12, 2009.
- "Diospyros kaki Thunb". ITIS.
- "Diospyros kaki L. f." ITIS.
- The Japanese persimmon was first introduced to the State of São Paulo, afterward expanding across Brazil through Japanese immigration; State of São Paulo is still the greatest producer, with an area of 3,610 hectares dedicated to Japanese persimmon culture in 2003; cf.  Archived 2009-10-14 at the Wayback Machine
- Effect of five triterpenoid compounds isolated from leaves of Diospyroskaki on stimulus-induced superoxide generation and tyrosyl phosphorylation in human polymorphonuclear leukocytes. Guang Chen, Huangwei Lu, Chunlei Wang, Koichi Yamashita, Masanobu Manabe, Suixu Xu and Hiroyuki Kodama, Clinica Chimica Acta, June 2002, Volume 320, Issues 1–2, Pages 11–16, doi:10.1016/S0009-8981(02)00021-9
- Zhou, Chunhua; Zhao, Daqiu; Sheng, Yanle; Tao, Jun; Yang, Yong (2011). "Carotenoids in Fruits of Different Persimmon Cultivars". Molecules. 16 (1): 624–636. doi:10.3390/molecules16010624. PMC 6259468. PMID 21242942.
- Иванова, Венелина (2010-11-21). "Най-вкусна е райска ябълка, узряла на клона". 24 часа (in Bulgarian). Retrieved 28 December 2016.
- A.I. Yordanov, S.G. Tabakov, V.I. Lichev, G.I. Govedarov (2013). "Testing of newly introduced persimmon cultivars in Bulgaria". Acta Horticulturae. International Society for Horticultural Science (996): 367–370. doi:10.17660/ActaHortic.2013.996.52. ISSN 2406-6168.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
- A model experiment for de-astringency of persimmon fruit with high carbon dioxide treatment: in vitro gelation of kaki-tannin by reacting with acetaldehyde. Matsuo T and Itoo S, Agricultural and Biological Chemistry, 1982, 46(3), pages 683-689
- Crain, Liz (2006-11-03). "Whether Asian or American, persimmons will grow on you". The Portland Tribune. Retrieved 2009-10-19.