Tag Archives: persimmons

A Week in the Garden of Jury

Persimmons framed against the autumn blue sky

Our autumn days are not always like this. We have had a week of dreary, grey and cold weather interspersed with rain every day. It can be very dispiriting. But it is more common for us to have days like today’s glorious morning when the persimmons make a colourful sight. The intensity of light and colour we get all year round here is something we take for granted, in the main. It is not until I travel overseas that I realise this is not common in many other climates.

The persimmons are the old fashioned, astringent variety which need to be very soft and ripe to eat. I have a couple of trays ripening. This year I want to try mashing the flesh and semi-drying it as fruit leather to use in baking. Persimmons make a reasonable substitute for dried apricots. The birds are enjoying the majority of the crop which is still on the tree.

A barrow full of bangalow seed

I have written before about the invasive habits of the bangalow palm, Archontophoenix cunninghamiana, and why we think it should be on the banned list for commercial sale. Because ours are handsome plants, Mark has been loathe to get the chainsaw out to drop them but he does get the extension ladder out to cut off the seed. Behold a barrow full of seed, though Mark observes that many more fell off and are lying at the bottom of the trunk. The problem with the seed is that the birds spread it and it can out-compete our native nikau palm (Rhopalostylis sapida). I do wonder at what point Mark may reach for the chainsaw rather than the extension ladder, because allowing such prolific seed-set on plants we know are invasive is unacceptable in our personal gardening philosophy.

Bulding an extension to the banana frame, using giant bamboo

Protecting one of several bunches. We are currently eating our own, homegrown bananas

The extension ladder was also required for the covering of the bananas for winter. “I had to build an extension to the frame,” Mark said and that was no small task. The bananas are the one and only plant we cover for winter and with the best ever crop of ripening bananas, this was even more important this year. Being 5km from the coast as the crow flies, we are not quite frost free here. Most tender plants can cope with the occasional minor frost as long as we place them carefully, but the bananas are marginal at best and warrant the special attention if we want the crop.

As our maunga – or Mount Taranaki to non-NZ residents – has put her full winter raiment on this week, it was a close-run race between the covering of the bananas and the first cold snap of winter. Not that we have had a frost yet.

The ladybirds have moved inside to hibernate. They creep into the crevices of the upstairs wooden joinery which can make opening and shutting the windows challenging. I was fine with this annual event until a social media friend suggested that they looked to be the pest Harlequin ladybird which is a far grubbier and less desirable version of the charming, common ladybird. I suspect she is right, though the first reported incidence of the Harlequin ladybirds was up north in 2016 and we have had these hibernating critters for longer than that. So either they have been in the country longer than has been reported, or we have some other form of this beetle. I see there are 6000 different types of ladybirds so unravelling the different ones is beyond me. They are a bit messy, so I may flick them back out the windows with the duster.

Propping up the Ficus antiarus

I see it was April 11 when we had the last major treemageddon incident.  Our Lloyd – our incredibly obliging and handy man here – did a fantastic job to get the clean-up to this stage. The poor Ficus antiarus is but a shadow of its former self after being completely uprooted. It remains to be seen how tough it is in longer term survival. The 140 years of straight Pinus radiata trunk may be destined for firewood after all. We have been unable to find anybody with a chainsaw mill who could mill it on site for us. The poor stripped remnant of a plant to the left of the trunk in the second photo is, or maybe was, a fruiting macadamia tree.

Mark is now looking in askance at the splendid specimen of Abies procera ‘Glauca’, a magnificent tree that he is worrying may be a ticking time bomb here. We are usually philosophical about large trees that fall but that is because their location means they will fall without damaging power lines, drainage pipes or buildings. The abies, alas, is more likely to fall on our house and cause major damage. He is wondering if it is time for us to make the hard call and fell it in a safe direction. Every time he mentions this, he expresses regret that his father planted it so close to the house. But that is so often the story with big trees – most people never factor in their potential size as they reach maturity.

The Theatre of the Banana, as I describe the protection of the only plant we wrap for winter

Pensive thoughts on a rainy Saturday

I do not know whether it was the rainy Saturday that made me pensive or whether it was my somewhat melancholy state of mind. Either way, I took a damp walk around the area we call the park. While the autumn colours seem quite striking this year and relatively early considering we have only had two cold days so far, I am not sure that damp autumn days are uplifting to my soul.

But I have been pondering the differences between those of us who see gardening as a process and those who see it as a product. I am happier in the company of the former – those who enjoy the act of gardening and see it as a journey where there may be a destination in mind but experience says that such a goal will be but transient and fleeting and not an end point at all.  For a garden can never be static and frozen in time so will never be finished or full. I suspect these are the characteristics of a gardener.

There are many who see a garden as a product – a particular destination or point of achievement in a creation that can then be frozen in time. This, I think, is probably a viewpoint of a garden owner who is not a gardener by nature. I felt a passing pang of sympathy for landscape designers. I would guess the majority of their paying clients fall into this category. Some may come to understand the whims of nature but many more make a rod for their backs, requiring that a garden be preserved in pristine condition at a certain point of its development.

But Sunday dawned fine and dry which meant my usual cheerful disposition was restored. We cannot complain about an autumn which delivers us a  daytime temperature of 24 degrees Celsius and night time temperature still well into double figures. Behold Mark’s pride and joy – his luverly bunches o’ bananas. Several lovely bunches. We are super marginal when it comes to growing bananas for tropical we are not. These are the only plants we cover for winter – festooned in protective shade cloth suspended on a giant bamboo frame.

Drying and then cleaning the soy bean crop before weighing and storing

An unusually warm and long summer may well have helped. It has certainly given us the best ever second crop of figs with which we are barely keeping pace eating fresh. And a bumper soy bean crop. I mean, what are we meant to do with 20 kg of soy beans when there are only two of us? I have made the first batch of soy milk to see if we will enjoy using it as a dairy substitute and I am even contemplating trying my hand at making tofu. Readers who have met Mark may be amused to hear that he calculated his 20 kg of cleaned soy beans as a yield of 3.6 tonnes to the hectare and was gratified to find from a net search that this is on the good side when it comes to commercial yields. I admit that I am grateful that he only flirted briefly with the idea of growing lentils. Considering how cheap these are to buy, the potential yield per hectare seems remarkably low. But I did not realise that Canada is the main global producer of lentils until I did a did a net search.

Persimmons are probably more decorative than a must-have harvest

Otherwise, the autumn harvest here is all about avocados, yet more avocados (guacamole, anybody?), seemingly endless feijoas, the aforementioned figs and the impending deluge of persimmons. Dudley dog is looking so plump from his excessive consumption of avocados that his flesh how has ripples of fat and his ongoing issues with eczema have disappeared – quite possibly due to the high oil content of the avocados. Mark checks several times a day for windfalls in an attempt to outwit this dog thief.

It seems churlish to bemoan the occasional rainy autumn day.

Tikorangi notes: the surprise success of dried persimmons

016Persimmons. These are a glorious sight in autumn but more decorative than useful here. Ours is an old astringent variety – mouth-puckeringly so until it is super ripe and then I really only like the jelly-like centre segments. We don’t eat many of them. I tried buying the fruit of the non-astringent recent introductions, which can be eaten at the crisp stage like an apple. I was a little underwhelmed – I preferred apples.
015I recently read that persimmon fruit dry well and even the astringent types can be picked before fully ripe, sliced and dried and they will lose their astringency. Truly, we were very sceptical. But it works. It really does. The first batch I sliced, skin and all, and dried on a rack over our woodburner. It was a bit hot for them and the skin was a little tough. This second batch I used a sharp knife to remove the skin – which wasn’t difficult – and then sliced and put in the oven on fan bake at a very low temperature for several hours. They aren’t fully dried so I will store them in small packages in the deep freeze lest they go mouldy in our humid climate.
018 (2)If you like dried fruit or eat muesli, they will make an excellent addition. I plan on using them as a substitute for dried apricots. They don’t taste the same but they will fill the same role. As with any dried food, they shrivel away to very little. I doubt that my forays into dried persimmons are going to make much of an inroad to our total crop – I won’t be drying hundreds of them and there is a large crop on the tree. But we are always interested in adding variety to our diet and dried persimmons take little effort to utilise a crop that we would otherwise waste.

If you want to know more about persimmons, I wrote about them in a Plant Collector back in 2013.

Persimmons with Dahlia Orchid. How could I resist?

Persimmons with Dahlia Orchid. How could I resist?

Plant Collector : Persimmons (Diospyros kaki, probably “Hachiya”)

The persimmon - worth growing as an ornamental even if the fruit is not to one's taste

The persimmon – worth growing as an ornamental even if the fruit is not to one’s taste

As autumn draws into winter, our old persimmon tree looks mighty spectacular, even if we aren’t huge fans of the fruit. The large leaves turn golden before falling and the fruit hang on like big orange-gold orbs for a long time. The tree itself is smallish at about 4 metres and never receives any care or attention.

The diospyros family is a large one, best known for giving us both persimmons and the heavy dark timber often called ebony wood. D. kaki is native to China but now grown in many other areas of the world. The commercial cultivars often originate from Japan although Israel has also adopted it as the Sharon fruit.

Being an old tree, ours is an astringent variety. A high tannin content means that any fruit less than very ripe indeed will pucker the mouth. The best parts are the gelatinous segments in the centre. The surrounding flesh can be a bit cloying but no doubt would make an excellent sherbet or sorbet. Nowadays most people plant the modern, non astringent varieties which can be eaten before reaching the soft stage of ripeness. “Fuyu” is the most common non astringent variety here and there is now a small commercial orchard industry. You can buy the fruit in the supermarkets and eat them while still crisp, somewhat like an apple.

Persimmon fruit must be a taste I have yet to acquire despite its international popularity. No matter. The tree fully justifies its place as an ornamental at this time of the year.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.

Tikorangi Notes: 28 May, 2010

Latest posts:
1) 28 May, 2010: The banana crop of 2010 revealed but really about our recommended tasks in the garden this week.
2) 28 May, 2010: The wonderful lemon fragrance of Backhousia citriodora.
3) 28 May, 2010: More about bananas – our Outdoor Classroom on thinning to get better crops.
4) 28 May 2010: The burgundy coloured loropetalums, China Pink in our case, are a splendid additon to our gardens here.
5) 26 May, 2010: The story of Cordyline Red Fountain.

The persimmon in autumn is more about looks than taste, for us at least

The persimmon in autumn is more about looks than taste, for us at least

As autumn morphs into winter here (to paraphrase our inimitable television weather presenter), we seem to be doing the Squirrel Nutkin impersonation and following a food theme. We aim to be self sufficient in vegetables and most fruit – I say aim, some years we get closer than others. But with only two of us left at home these days, I don’t have to resort to buying much fresh produce at all.

One of the edible crops we grow which we rarely eat ourselves is the highly ornamental persimmon which looks fantastically decorative in the autumn. This is an elderly astringent variety which means one needs to wait until it so ripe it is nearly rotting before it becomes palatable. Even at that stage, I only like the jelly-like segments at the very centre and find the outer flesh rather clarty and sticky. I am sure it would make an excellent gelato, icecream or granita but none of these appeal in the chill of late autumn. It is possible to buy non-astringent fruit and plants which can apparently be eaten crisp, like an apple, but I have yet to bring myself to buy one when we have all these going to waste at home. Except that they are not really going to waste because they bring us a great deal of pleasure over many weeks just adorning the bare branches of the tree.