MU
Oak Leaves

November 11, 2016

Persimmon





Persimmon Tree Has Ripe History


Cass Ratliff

On the grounds of Manchester University, west of the Science Center, lie persimmon trees that replace a tree that once stood where the Science Center currently stands. 

During the construction that led to the formation of the Science Center, seeds were collected from the original persimmon tree. “Some other people in the area, such as former President Switzer, might also have plants from these seeds,” said Dave Hicks, associate professor of biology. The current tree on campus is the offspring of the original tree. 

Jeffrey Osborne, associate professor of chemistry, explains how the original tree also has a history of its own. The seed from the original tree came from a tree on the farm of Kitner in Ohio. That seed from the tree in Ohio came from a tree in Missouri, which was where the Church of the Brethren held their annual conference. So, the trees that lie at MU have a strong genetic line and the line continues through the seeds that were given from the original campus tree. 

Persimmon trees produce a fruit that both Hicks and Osborne have enjoyed in their own ways throughout their lifetimes. Hicks collected fruit from the original tree on campus and then grew his own tree from the seedlings before it was cut down. 

When Osborne was growing up, he and his friends used to try to trick or dared people to eat a bite of a green persimmon because it would make them pucker for such a long time. “I learned later in life that they became delicious upon ripening late in the fall,” Osborne said. “They’re delicious. I also like to eat native fruits. I planted them in my yard, too, including seedlings from the original Science Center tree, so that I can enjoy fresh fruit even after the frost, when most other fruits are gone.”

Persimmons are typically eaten off the tree, but there all also other ways to eat them. “Persimmon pudding is supposed to be good, but I've never tried it,” Osborne said. 

Hicks said they can also be used to make fudge. 

This particular fruit is not usually ripe until later in the year. It begins during late summer, but is best and most sweet in the fall. Hicks pointed out a quote by John Smith of the Jamestown colony that states, “If it be not ripe it will drawe a man’s mouth awrie with much torment.”

The scientific name for persimmon trees is Diospyros virginiana and it is surprising that this tree exists in Indiana. “Persimmon is native to the southeastern United States into the southern parts of the Midwest––we’re really out of their usual range here,” Hicks said. In grocery stores, persimmon fruit come from Asia and are much bigger than their size in Indiana.