1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Persimmon

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PERSIMMON, the name given to the fruits of Diospyros virginiana in the United States. The tree which bears them belongs to the order Ebenaceae, is usually from 30 to 50 ft. in height, and has oval entire leaves, and unisexual flowers on short stalks. In the male flowers, which are numerous, the stamens are sixteen in number and arranged in pairs; the female flowers are solitary, with traces of stamens, and a smooth ovary with one ovule in each of the eight cells—the ovary is surmounted by four styles, which are hairy at the base. The fruit-stalk is very short, bearing a subglobose fruit an inch or rather more in diameter, of an orange-yellow colour, and with a sweetish astringent pulp. It is surrounded at the base by the persistent calyx-lobes, which increase in size as the fruit ripens. The astringency renders the fruit somewhat unpalatable, but after it has been subjected to the action of frost, or has become partially rotted or “bletted” like a medlar, its flavour is improved. The fruit is eaten in great quantities in the southern states of America, and is also fermented with hops, corn-meal or wheat-bran into a sort of beer or made into brandy. The wood is heavy, strong and very close-grained and used in turnery. The tree is very common in the South Atlantic and Gulf states, and attains its largest size in the basin of the Mississippi. It was brought to England before 1629 and is cultivated, but rarely if ever ripens its fruit. It is easily raised from seed and can also be propagated from stolons, which are often produced in great quantity. The Chinese and Japanese cultivate another species, the Diospyros Kaki, of which there exist numerous ill-defined varieties. The fruits are larger than those of the American kind, variable in shape, but have similar properties. An astringent fluid, known as shibu, rich in tannin, is expressed from the green fruit and used in various industries. The tree is hardy in the south of England and in the Channel Islands.