I planted our Ichi Ki Kei Jiro persimmon tree back in 2008. In its third year, it produced a few fruits that dropped before ripening. In the fourth year, the tree produced fruits that stayed on the tree and ripened there for us to harvest. The little tree has produced mature fruit every year since then.
How to Eat Ichi Ki Kei Jiro Fruits
The flavor of Ichi Ki Kei Jiro persimmons is similar in flavor to that of American persimmons, a less-strong version of that flavor, but the fruit is larger. Even better, unlike American persimmons, Ichi Ki Kei Jiro fruits totally lack that persimmon-astringency, even when the fruits are hard.
After decades of eating American persimmons, sometimes too soon, so that I got that “Sahara Desert” feeling in my mouth, it took a few years to trust that my Asian persimmons would not have that astringency.
The first year we harvested the large, orange fruits from our Ichi Ki Kei Jiro tree, I did eat a few that were still firm, like apples, because everything I had read about this persimmon variety said that I should. The flavor was good, and the fruits were sweet. However, the fruits continued to ripen indoors, and waiting for the fruit to get mushy-soft turned out to be the best plan.
When the fruits are mushy-soft, the flavor is more pronounced, and the sweetness is just right. To eat Ichi Ki Kei Jiro fresh, we wash the soft fruits and then cut them either in half or in quarters and scoop the pulpy innards out with a spoon. This makes an excellent dessert, without any additions or alterations.
Fruit-preparation is made even easier by the lack of seeds in most fruits from our tree. Every now and then, I will cut into a fruit that contains a few seeds, but that is rare.
In years when we have a super-abundance of these persimmons, I scoop out pulp from some of the fruits into freezer bags, to use in making persimmon bread (and other foods) in later months.
Our tree does seem to alternate bumper-crop years with lower-harvest years. The fruits taste great in both cases, but in lower-harvest years we have less.
Last year we had a huge crop, enough to put several quarts of pulp into the freezer and to share bags of fruit with neighbors and friends. This is a lower harvest year. We’ve shared some fruit with friends, but there might not be much persimmon bread this year.
Ichi Ki Kei Jiro: About the Trees
Ichi Ki Kei Jiro is self-fertile, which means that one tree is enough. It doesn’t need to be planted with a companion-tree to set fruit. For smaller yards, this can be an important feature!
This variety is also one of the smaller Asian persimmon trees; Ichi Ki Kei Jiro is supposed to reach a height of about 8-10 feet. Ours is a little taller. It might be as much as 12 feet tall, but my experience is that plants in the South almost always grow taller than expected.
Asian persimmons generally are not as cold-hardy as our native, American persimmons. The website for the plant provider Edible Landscaping (where I bought my tree — but this is not a sponsored post!) shows a hardiness range of zones 6-8 for many of the Asian persimmons it offers. My yard is in hardiness zone 7b.
UGA Extension, in its Home Garden Persimmons publication, offers a more conservative guide to cold-hardiness, suggesting that Asian persimmons might not be reliably hardy anywhere north of Macon. I live a couple-hours drive north of Macon, and my tree has survived for 10 years, but other gardeners this far north may have a different experience.
I have read that the lifespan of this tree is about 10 years, which is its current age in my yard. It will be interesting to see how the tree does in the coming year!
Ichi Ki Kei Jiro: Planting and Care
As for most fruiting trees, the site selected for the tree should have plenty of sun.
Our Ichi Ki Kei Jiro is a grafted tree; the Asian persimmon top is grafted onto the roots of an American persimmon. The American persimmon rootstock increases the hardiness of the Asian persimmon, especially its tolerance for drought and for excess water. Here in the Southeastern U.S., we get both of those conditions. Most importantly, though, the tree should not be planted in a spot that stays wet.
The best soil for an Ichi Ki Kei Jiro, like for most other plants, is a soil that we don’t have — a “fertile, sandy loam” that is well-drained, a kind of soil that is almost mythological for those of us in the Southeast.
Soil in my yard is pretty much all red clay. It stays wet for a very long time after a stretch of rainy weather, and then changes over to a brick-like hardness in drier weather.
When I planted my tree, my biggest concern was the risk of soggy soil that could encourage root rots and crown rots. I have lost other trees to soggy soils. To minimize the risk, I planted my Ichi Ki Kei Jiro on a little rise that prevents water from gathering/standing near the trunk/crown of the tree. This strategy seems to have worked.
North Carolina State University notes that the soil pH for persimmons should be in the 6-6.5 range. NCSU also offers this planting advice:
Care must be taken when transplanting a persimmon tree because of its fragile root system. In general, trees should be planted at the same depth (or no more than 1 inch below) they grew in the nursery. The root system must never be subjected to freezing or drying conditions. To ensure good root growth after planting, water the trees immediately after setting them out and on a weekly basis thereafter if they receive no rainfall.North Carolina State University, Growing Oriental Persimmons in North Carolina
If your soil is mostly clay, like mine, planting at the same depth or higher, and on a little rise, would probably be better than planting even a smidge below the depth of the plant in the nursery.
I have read that overdoing the fertilizer can result in fruit drop. With our clay soils, I tend to under-fertilize, because I know that clay soil can hold onto the nutrients in fertilizers (of all kinds — organic and conventional) for a long time.
Pruning an Ichi Ki Kei Jiro Persimmon Tree
The roots of grafted persimmon trees tend to send up “suckers” — little saplings of American persimmons — that need to be pruned away at ground-level.
Most of my readers are organic gardeners, but not all are, so this is for all those who sometimes do their weeding with chemicals: Do Not Spray these suckers with herbicides to get rid of them. They are still connected to the Asian persimmon through the root system. Herbicides like RoundUp used on the suckers will travel through the connected root system to your cherished Asian persimmon tree. This could kill the tree. Just so you know…
I prune the top part of my little tree in late winter, usually in early March, but the pruning is minimal. This is not like the pruning required to maintain a healthy apple or peach tree.
I remove low branches that get in the way of mowing and branches that are growing back toward the center of the tree. I look for branches that criss-cross each other and rub together (the rubbing could create a wound in the branch), and prune away one of the two branches. I look for places where several branches grow in a cluster from the same node and prune to reduce the number to just 2 or 3, rather than 4 or 5.
The branches I see on my tree now, in late November, are not where the fruit will form next year. Fruits form on new wood that grows in Spring; the little bit of pruning in March can stimulate growth of that new wood.
Harvesting Ichi Ki Kei Jiro Fruits
Ichi Ki Kei Jiro trees hold tightly to their fruits. Just pulling to remove the fruit, even fruit that is dark orange and beginning to soften, isn’t always sufficient. To avoid damaging the tree, use pruners to clip right through the twigs or slender branches holding the fruits.
Those fruiting twigs will not produce fruit next year, but they may be a source of new wood for next year’s fruit. When you cut through a twig to harvest fruit, try to cut just beyond an outward-facing bud, to help guide new growth in Spring.
Report on Other Asian Persimmon Trees Nearby
Tree 1: One of my friends has a different Asian persimmon tree — I don’t know which variety — that he planted five years ago. His tree still has not produced mature fruit.
Tree 2: When Joe and I walked a different route through the neighborhood yesterday, to get a cup of coffee at a new coffee shop in town (two miles away), we passed a yard that had a very small Asian persimmon tree with fruit. This must be its first year for fruit, because there were just five fruits on the tree, and the tree couldn’t have been more than five or six feet tall. I don’t know which variety of persimmon this tree is, but the fruits are more elongated (cone-shaped) than fruits on my Ichi Ki Kei Jiro.
I hope this information is helpful to gardeners considering which fruits to plant in a Southern yard. If it is, please remember to “like” or “share” the post!