Pumpkins, pomegranates and persimmons

Kathy Henderson

Garden Columnist

This is the season for the 3 p’s.

My pumpkins sit looking very orange - did not do much decorating with them, so I am going to paint them Christmasy colors with glitter and use them - they were a little pricey just to let go to waste (compost soon). I do not grow pumpkins - they are space greedy and I do not have the space to give them. Around here with all the chickens and peacocks, I have to fence everything green and tender and the fence must be quite tall.

Pomegranates ripening on a bush.

The Pomegranates are on a tall shrub planted too close to my house. About two years ago, I cut it back radically and it rewarded me by dying back almost to the ground. I was devastated, but surprised when it grew back the next spring. This year it has about 20 pomegranates on it. They are splitting now which is my indication that they are ripe. Very tasty. I just eat them fresh - not one to cook with them or to use them in fresh dishes. Since the seeds are hard, I spit them out. That is not socially acceptable in a dining sort of way. This is such a great plant taste-wise and ornamentally. The orange blooms are deep in color, double and very showy in the summer. The leaves are small and bright green, tinged with red in the autumn. The plant is large, so you need to give it plenty of room to grow. Plant it where it gets some protection from the northwest wind and plenty of direct sunlight. Pomegranate has no particular soil or nutrient needs. It needs moisture but must have good drainage in the root zone. Fertilize in the spring with a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer to keep it healthy and growing. Organic fertilizers work very well.

Persimmons (Diospyros virginiana) grow in the fields and along the edge of woodlands. These small persimmons feed a lot of animals. My chickens and peacocks enjoy those that grow near their residences. I like them also, however the large seeds make them a lot of work for a little pulp. AND if they are not quite ripe (mushy) they will turn your mouth “wrong side out”. In proper terms that is referred to as “astringent”. Yuck! When ripe, they have a great flavor.

Persimmons ready to eat.

The persimmons that will give you a different flavor and texture without the abundance of seed are the Asian or Japanese Persimmons (Diospyros kaki). They are sweet and have an interesting flavor when ripe.

‘Fuyu’ cultivar is the most popular among non-Asian populations, but the ones that must be soft to be non-astringent in order to be eaten are popular in Japan. These are opened and eaten much as a pudding type treat. There are many cultivars in the trade, but some are quite difficult to find.

‘Fuyu’ is the cultivar that I have and it is loaded with fruit to the point of breaking the limbs. After harvest the tree will have to be pruned severely and may take several years to grow back as a tree. In order to keep this from happening again, I will have to diligently observe fruit development and thin the fruit to prevent the weight problem. If it has a lot of fruit, I can support the limbs with heavy stakes. ‘Fuyu’ has the texture of an apple and very few, if any, seed. I have made persimmon bread, used the fresh fruit in fruit salads and mixed with apples in Waldorf Salad. I have also dehydrated them for tasty, nutritional snacks. I think persimmon jam would be great. Cider?

Plant the trees in well-drained soil with a lot of organic matter. When you plant the tree, prune it back to about three feet to allow it to form strong branches. It can be used as an ornamental as well as an orchard tree.

Pumpkins, Pomegranates and Persimmons - Tasty, exciting, orange fruits of Fall and fun to grow in the home landscape!