Photo of Pomegranate, courtesy of Kristen Taylor.

Fall is an interesting time of year. When many of our summer plants are beginning to wither and our stone fruit trees have dropped their last fruit, something quite unusual happens. Two trees, pomegranates and persimmons, become full of bright, colorful fruit.

Pomegranates and persimmons bear fruit in the northern hemisphere between September and January. These trees do best in Mediterranean climates(such as ours in the Inland Empire), which consist of short, mild winters and long, hot to mild summers, and so are quite important to urban homesteaders in the area. Pomegranate trees bear medium-sized fruits with a dense outer shell that protect small berry-like seeds encased in spongy pulp. Cutting into a pomegranate is a notoriously messy process, because the seeds pop and squirt red liquid in every direction. A good tip is to fill a small bowl with water and submerge the pomegranate; then you can make your attempt to crack into its hard exterior. Your water will turn pink, but at least your shirt will stay clean.

Persimmons are also a medium size fruit with a hard exterior. They begin as small green/yellow berries that ripen to a deep orange color. As the fruit ripens and softens the exterior becomes edible. Make sure you eat a persimmon only when it has fully ripened; if you try to eat one too early it will make your mouth pucker. Prior to ripening, the persimmon shell is full of tannic acid, which makes it bitter tasting. There are some varieties that are non astringent such as the Fuyu and those can be eaten before they are fully ripened. In fact it is very common for Fuyu Persimmons to be eaten while still crunchy. Persimmons are often used to make cookies and jams. They are pervasive within East Asian culinary cultures and they were extremely important to early Native Americans.

Photo of Persimmon, courtesy of Frank Chan.

Interestingly, many persimmons in the US, including Asian varieties are grafted onto a North American rootstock. We had a Fuyu persimmon in our demonstration garden which, due to high winds, broke at the graft. Now the rootstock has created new growth, so we’ll be getting a North American variety instead of an Asian variety. I’m looking forward to seeing how those fruits turn out.

The IEUA Garden in Every School program uses both of these fruit trees in many of our school gardens. Take a look in your garden to see if you have any pomegranates or persimmons. If you’re feeling brave, grab a few pomegranates and come up with your own way to harvest its seeds. Or, for a more educational venture, look up the different uses for persimmons in Asian cuisine. You will probably find several varieties that you have never seen before.