Sunday, July 28, 2013

Date plum

Here is a tree I would grow, if I had the space, and if nurseries stocked it. The date plum. It is a persimmon: Diospyros lotus. I first met it two years ago at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, when I tasted it, ripe (below). I noticed the tree again on Friday, when I saw the unripe, powdery green fruit  loading the branches. It is thought that the (very ripe) fruit may have been the source of Homer's Lotus Eaters, in his Odyssey. The Chinese call these persimmons black dates and I have seen them dried, in Chinatown.

The fat orange persimmons we see in early winter trays at greengrocers are probably mostly cultivars of Diospyros kaki, and there is a native American persimmon, too - Diospyros virginiana. Ebony is the heartwood of a tropical persimmon - Diospyros ebenum.

When ripe the small sweet date plums - about the size of a fat thimble - are as freshly sweet as chewable toffee. I'll visit again when the weather turns cold.

And if it does not rain on us, I'll lead my foraging walkers past the tree early this afternoon. It deserves to be better known.

What fruit would you grow, if you could?

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