as I eat a persimmon?
the bell starts ringing?
at Horyuji Temple
Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902)
PHOTOS above: firm rounded persimmon ripening at the Genetic Resource and Conservation Center, also known as the Tree Farm, in Chico.
Persimmon have long represented both the divine and the worldly delights in many cultures. These colorful, tasty and seasonal fruits rank high among the marvels of the North State Garden in early winter. And not just the persimmon, as if there were just one – but the whole range of them available to us from late fall and into the New Year: the fuyugaki (generally shortened to fuyu), which is apple shaped and can be eaten when still firm without fear of bitterness; the hachiya, which is the more heart shaped and full-bodied one, eaten only when very very ripe (generally after cold nighttime temperatures have sweetened them) and almost jelly-like inside; and the so-called chocolate persimmon or maru, which is prized for its cinnamon colored flesh, to mention just three.
PHOTO above: A large, oblong, almost heart-shaped D. hachiya persimmon, and the interior of a chocolate or maru persimmon.
Persimmon is the common name for the fruit of any member of the genus Diospyrus – the latin name literally meaning “food of the Gods”. In many Asian cultures, the persimmon is an ancient and auspicious symbol of transformation. According to the California Rare Fruit growers Association, Diospyrus kaki – or the Japanese persimmon – is the most cultivated species. Diospyrus virginiana is the species native to the Southeastern United States.
The oriental persimmon is native to China, but has been cultivated in China, Korea and Japan for centuries. The plant was recorded as introduced to California in 1856.
PHOTOS above two: The smaller, slightly redder fruits of the American persimmon (D. Virginiana) ripening and with frost kiss at the Tree Farm in Chico.
Persimmon do well in areas like ours that have moderate winters and relatively mild summers. The trees can tolerate temperatures of 0° F when fully dormant, but the have low chilling requirements (less than 100 hours) in order to produce good fruit.
PHOTO above: Persimmon fruit in full fall glory in the tree canopy.
Besides their lovely, sweet fruit – ready just in time for holiday decorating and cooking – persimmon are good looking and nicely sized garden trees. The CRFA describes them as: multitrunked or single-stemmed deciduous trees to 25 ft. high and at least as wide. Handsome ornamentals, they feature drooping leaves and branches that provide an almost tropical appearance.
PHOTO above: Persimmon leaves in fall color.
Leaves are often pale, slightly yellowish green in youth, turning a dark, glossy green with age. In autumn, the leaves often turn dramatic shades of yellow, orange and red. Tea can also be made from fresh or dried leaves.
PHOTO above: Fuyu persimmon sliced evenly and thinly for slow drying.
Persimmons are also delicious eaten dried – as sliced and dried translucent disks, or skinned and slowly air-dried whole, when they take on the feel of a freshly dried date or fig. These whole dried delicacies are known as hoshi gaki and are served at New Year’s in several Asian cultures to offer health and prosperity for the coming year.
Persimmons in the North State:
Interestingly, persimmons and persimmon introduction into California has a long history in the North State, at the The Genetic Resource and Conservation Center, also known as the Tree Farm, in Chico, where a wide range of persimmon were trialed for their tree size, disease resistance, fruit flavor and fruits ability to withstand packing and shipping for market. Development of the tree farm, a not209-acre facility, started in 1904 when the site was assigned to the Agricultural Research Service for the purpose of plant breeding research and plant introduction from all over the world. It was originally named the Plant Introduction Station. Starting from about 1905 the station was the home of seed and seedling persimmons received from around the world – from Texas and Florida, from Japan, China and Korea. Many of the specimens were sent to the station by the famed Asian plant hunter, Frank N. Meyer. After enjoying the multitude of the artful fruits still vibrant each fall at the station on walks myself, the records of the introductions were sent to me by Robyn Scibilio Site/Orchard Manager at the site. More than 32 individual specimens are recorded. They are truly seasonal delights.
The main gate at the 209-acre Genetic Resource & Conservation Center in Chico is open 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
December Gardening Tasks:
PHOTOS one above and two below: Other seasonal delights include our annual winter flush of ferns, crop of mandarins and other citrus, and our cheerful red toyon berries brightening the chaparral and foothills.
Dried oak leaves and grass clippings which are both readily available now fill out my compost bins, bringing to mind recycling and reincarnation – which together with compost form the garden’s conceptual trinity for me: pragmatics, aesthetics and spiritual mystery and peace. A cozy layer of this mix insulates soil and root systems from the coming temperature and humidity fluctuations, and allows the winter rains to slow-release their nutrients down. If you have been able to get a feeding of 0-10-10 fertilizer onto the soil before topdressing with this mulch – all the better for edibles or ornamentals.
If you can work the soil, December and January are still ideal for the planting of new perennials, shrubs and trees – and bare root season for ornamental and fruit trees as well as perennial berry canes and veg will be getting fully underway by January.
In the seasonal edible garden, now is a good time to direct seed bok choy, broccoli, kale/collards, lettuce, onion sets, peas, radish and spinach. It’s also a good time to direct some annual flowers for next spring and summer’s color, these include: California poppy, larkspur, cornflower and scabiosa.
As you continue to cut back perennials and edibles that have run their course, remember that diligent attention to plant and soil hygiene now will pay-off well in the long run – winter precipitation can also inadvertently spread bacterial and fungal diseases from diseased plants. Carefully clean up the dead and fallen leaves from roses, peonies, iris, cane fruits and any other plants on which you have ever notices black spot, mildew or other issues. Do not compost diseased leaves or woody materials, discard it with your household trash.
PHOTO: The artistry of jack frost in the garden.
When pruning, try to leave seed heads, healthy foliage, and winter blooms for the birds and insects to snack on and nest with – weather permitting. You will be as thankful as them. The frolicking of birds, bees and butterflies in the winter garden are some of the many gifts of the season.
Watch the weather forecast closely now and be prepared with frost cloth to cover tender plants.
The days may be short, they may even be cold and gray, but the gifts of the seasons come full circle in our gardens – keeping us mindful and helping to ground us as we ring out of this circled season and work to herald in the coming one.
Thinking of circular transformations and gifts, December is not only the time for persimmon, but also the time for wreath and green workshops, winter walks and other cold-weather activities!
The On-line Calendar of Regional Gardening Events at jewellgarden.com adds events throughout the month. I do my very best to keep the calendar up to date and accurate, please confirm all events with the event host. If you have an event you would like listed or if you are aware of a mistake on the calendar, please send all pertinent information to: Jennifer@jewellgarden.com! Thanks!
PHOTO above: Persimmon leaves in fall color.
Nov 27 – Thanksgiving Day
Nov 29 – Redding: McConnell Arboretum & Botanical Gardens at Turtle Bay: Walk with Horticulture Manager Lisa Endicott 10:30 am. Bring your notebooks and cameras for this participant-driven program. We’ll make our way through the Gardens with frequent stops for discussions about (what else?) plants! Visit www.turtlebay.org/nursery for more information Turtle Bay’s McConnell Arboretum & Botanical Gardens Nursery – 1100 Arboretum Drive (Take N. Market Street, turn on Arboretum Drive. Take right fork in the road and park in parking lot on the left.) Enter Nursery through gate in parking lot. More info: http://www.turtlebay.org
Dec 2 – Chico: Mt. Lassen Chapter of the California Native Plant Society Field Trip: Middle Bidwell Park Meet at 10 am at the trailhead where Centennial & Chico Canyon Road join at their east ends. Bring water, lunch and cool weather gear. We’ll walk along Big Chico Creek to the start of the Yahi Trail while looking for mushrooms to identify. Rain cancels. Leader: Gerry, 530-893-5123. For more information see website at mountlassen.cnps.org
Dec 3 – Chico: Mt. Lassen Chapter of the California Native Plant Society General Member Meeting and Program: Dr. Rob Schlising, CSU Chico Biology Professor Emeritus will give a presentation “After the Spring Show: Summer Plant Life in Vernal Pool Landscapes.” 7:30 pm, Chico Library. For more information see website at mountlassen.cnps.org
Dec 4 – Chico: The Plant Barn Nursery & Gifts – Wreath Making Workshop December 4th at 5:30 p.m. Our wreath classes have become a tradition for many. Sign up early for this wonderful experience. We provide all sorts of gorgeous greens to make your holiday wreath. Lots of great help and we clean up the mess! Superelf will be standing by too! Call today to schedule for one of our classes, 345-3121. Spread the news! 406 Entler Ave, Chico, CA 95928 (530) 345-3121
Dec 6 – FULL MOON (Full Cold Moon)
Dec 6 – Redding: McConnell Arboretum & Botanical Gardens at Turtle Bay: Landscape Photography in the Botanical Gardens 8:30 am – 10:30 am. Bring your camera and join award-winning photographer Harvey Spector to capture the beauty of flowers, the vibrant hues of fall, outdoor art pieces and the unexpected wildlife found in our 25-acre botanical gardens. Digital or film shutterbugs of all ages and skill levels will receive individualized instruction in this photography skills class. Participants provide their own camera. Meet at Arboretum & Botanical Gardens Office – 1135 Arboretum Drive (Next to Greenhouse in Nursery). More info: http://www.turtlebay.org
Dec 6 – Redding: Shasta Chapter CNPS Field Trip: Middle Creek Trail. This will be a four-mile round-trip hike on Middle Creek Trail, from Highway 299 to Old Shasta and back. Fairly easy paved trail with some steep spots. The trail roughly follows Middle Creek and will pass the place where the infamous Ruggles Brothers robbed a stage coach. We will see typical chaparral and riparian plants. Meet at the intersection of Highway 299 and Iron Mountain Road at 9 AM. Dogs on leash okay on this outing. Rain cancels. For more information, call David Ledger at 355-8542. For more Info: http://www.shastacnps.org
Dec 6 – Redding: Wyntour Gardens Nursery – Holiday Open House 8026 Airport Road – Redding, CA. 96002 – 530-365-2256. Hours of Operation: Monday thru Saturday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Sundays: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Persimmons – Gifts of the Season & December in the North State Garden
Dec 9 – Chico: Chico Seed Lending Library: Lettuce Get Together Monthly work group 5 – 7 pm. We’re excited to invite you to our next two ‘Lettuce Get Together’ seed packing parties. We’ve lined up some seedy discussion sessions as we pack seeds for members to borrow. We will meet in the main part of the library right next to the seed library [Chico Branch, Butte County Library, 1108 Sherman Ave. Chico].is our first CSLL Book Club ‘Lettuce Get Together’! In addition to packaging seed for members to borrow we will discuss the incredible book, The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food by Janisse Ray. The book is available at some of our Butte County libraries! Please find or borrow a copy of the book and read as much as you can and we’ll talk about the importance of local food and seed saving as described in this most excellent book. For more information: https://www.facebook.com/ChicoSLL
Dec 13 – Chico: Chico Horticultural Society Annual Wreath, Swag and Centerpiece workshop 10 am – 12 pm. We provide all the materials for 1 gorgeous handmade fresh greenery wreath, table centerpiece or door swag. Learn from experienced floral designers and take home a lovely tradition! $15 per person. Registration required – please email Carol at email@example.com.
Dec 14 – Redding: Shasta Chapter CNPS Plant Propagation Session Two-hour work session starting at 10 AM at the Shasta College farm greenhouses. The greenhouses are located at the back of Shasta College, near the livestock barns. We will be making seed trays and propagating cuttings. Any propagative material or California native plants that you may want to donate are always appreciated! Please call Jay & Terri Thesken at 221-0906 for further information. For more info: www.shastacnps.org
Dec 21 – Winter Solstice – Welcome Winter!
Dec 21 – Chico: Chico Permaculture Guild Monthly Meeting. For more info see https://www.facebook.com/groups/chicopermacultureguild/events/
Dec 27 – Redding: McConnell Arboretum & Botanical Gardens at Turtle Bay: Walk with Horticulture Manager Lisa Endicott 10:30 am. Bring your notebooks and cameras for this participant-driven program. We’ll make our way through the Gardens with frequent stops for discussions about (what else?) plants! Visit www.turtlebay.org/nursery for more information Turtle Bay’s McConnell Arboretum & Botanical Gardens Nursery – 1100 Arboretum Drive (Take N. Market Street, turn on Arboretum Drive. Take right fork in the road and park in parking lot on the left.) Enter Nursery through gate in parking lot. More info: http://www.turtlebay.org
PHOTO above: Persimmon as decorative Thanksgiving elements at Cafe Beaujolais in Mendocino.
Jewellgarden.com/In a North State Garden is on Facebook
To submit plant/gardening related events/classes to the Jewellgarden.com on-line Calendar of Regional Gardening Events, send the pertinent information to me at: Jennifer@jewellgarden.com
In a North State Garden is a twice-monthly Northstate Public Radio and web-based program celebrating the art, craft and science of home gardening in Northern California. It is made possible in part by the Gateway Science Museum – Exploring the Natural History of the North State and on the campus of CSU, Chico. In a North State Garden is conceived, written, photographed and hosted by Jennifer Jewell – all rights reserved jewellgarden.com. In a North State Garden airs two weekends a month on Northstate Public Radio Saturday mornings at 7:34 AM Pacific time and Sunday morning at 8:34 AM Pacific time.