Question of the Week
Answer: Because astringency of the fruit can be such a powerful disincentive to eating persimmons, it is important that the marketer either sell only properly ripened fruit or provide good information to the end consumer about how to ripen the fruit properly at home.
Packing is another important consideration. The fruit of the American persimmon when ripe is very soft, so extreme care must be taken when packing for market, or you will be trying to sell flats of mush. Stacking more than a few fruits on top of each other will lead to an unsalable product.
Asian persimmons should be packed for market when the cultivar’s full color has developed. The nonastringent cultivars can be shipped and eaten while still a little firm, but they are still prone to bruising. The astringent types are marketed while firm because by the time they are full-ripe and nonastringent, they often need to be eaten with a spoon. So, careful handling is the rule.
Direct Marketing Ideas
Because only folks with a rural background are likely to have had any exposure to American persimmons—and many of those will have had a bad experience (probably initiated by an older sibling or someone else “in the know” who convinced the person to bite into one as a practical joke)—the challenge and opportunity will exist to introduce a clientele to something new that can be extremely delicious and nutritious. Perhaps signage that translates the Latin genus name would be a good start: “Diospyros = Food of the Gods!”
Another marketing idea helpful for all kinds of direct-marketed crops is to provide recipes and other ideas for their use.
American persimmons, most often gathered from the wild, do sometimes show up at farmers markets in their climatic range in autumn, so persimmons do have at least some minor commercial appeal already.
Relatively small amounts of frozen and canned pulp do get sold (visit www.persimmonpudding. com for sources and ideas on processing the persimmons). Jerry Lehman and other persimmon aficionados in the Midwest are leading the way to commercialization of the American persimmon and held a conference in Terre Haute, Indiana, in 2002 to that end. The information from that conference and much more about persimmons appears at persimmonpudding.com. Another source for marketing ideas is the Mitchell Persimmon Festival () in Mitchell, Indiana, which boasts persimmon pudding contests, persimmon fruit taste competition, and more.
Commercial Possibilities for Asian Persimmon Culture Outside California
Up to the present, commercial Asian persimmon culture has been almost exclusively a California enterprise, but growing conditions in much of the Deep South should be conducive to Asian persimmons, and the widespread survival and success of Asian persimmons as dooryard trees is at least partial proof of that. The upper- and mid-South regions are probably too risky for commercial production, as the Asian persimmon can be killed to the roots by temperatures near 0˚F and suffer significant damage any time temperatures dip below 20˚F.
Another encouraging factor for potential growers outside California is the growing populations of ethnic Asians in most American towns and cities. Until apples were introduced, the Asian persimmon, with more than 1,000 named cultivars, was the most widely grown fruit in China and Japan. So, with growing populations of ethnic Asians in the U.S., there should be a parallel growth in marketing possibilities.
Learn more about persimmon astringency problems, culture, and marketing in the ATTRA publication Persimmons, Asian and American.
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