Picture of single persimmon on a branch - backlit

Ripening Persimmons

by Mike Krebill

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Picture of branch with persimmons
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Photo of native American persimmon on a twig.  Photo by Mike Krebil.

     American persimmons, Diospyros virginiana, lose their astringency when they are so ripe that they fall from the tree. Frequently, however, due to strong winds, persimmons still attached to twigs will litter the ground.  These may be unpleasant to the taste until they have more time to soften and ripen. A couple weeks may be enough. To judge whether they are ready, hold onto the stiff dark brown calyx and the twig with one hand, and the soft orange fruit with the fingers of the other hand. Gently twist the twig and calyx. If they readily separate from the fruit, the persimmon should be ready to eat. If there is any resistance, however, it is not ready to eat. A simple taste test will prove it.


     There are times when you won’t want to wait for persimmons to ripen. One might be when your home is a long drive away. Another might be if the ‘simmon tree is in a person’s yard, and you’ve promised to pick up all the persimmons in the yard for the privilege of collecting there. A third might be when you’re competing with deer, raccoons, and other critters for the persimmons. And the fourth might be like the situation on the far side of the pickup: when persimmons would drop from the tree onto ground covered with gooseberry, blackberry, raspberry, Virginia stickseed, poison ivy and other plants that make their retrieval a hassle.

Harvesting (picking) persimmons from the back of a pickup truck.  Photo by Mike Krebill.

Picking American persimmons and judging them by same degree of ripeness.  Photo by Mike Krebill.

     If you plan to pick persimmons from a tree, try to pick all of them at the same degree of ripeness. For example, all that have wrinkles like the following persimmon.

Photo of a wrinkled American persimmon.  This persimmon serves as a guide to pick similar persimmons for later ripening.  Photo by Mike Krebill.

     Since the dark brown, stiff, dried calyx at the top is useful when judging the ripeness of a persimmon, I prefer leaving it on. If it doesn’t twist away from the twig, you may want a hand pruner to clip the twig and fruit off.

Photo of how Mike Krebill ripens persimmon with ethylene gas from a bannana or apple in a paper bag.  Photo by Mike Krebill.

     Put the persimmons in a labeled grocery sack with a banana or an apple. The ethylene gas given off by the ripening fruit will help the persimmons ripen. Check every few days. When the dried brown calyx twists easily off the persimmon, the persimmon is ripe.

     Persimmons ripened this way are OK for use in recipes, but they aren’t as sweet and flavorful as those that drop from the tree.

Technique and photos from Mike Krebill of Iowa.