We should add that, thanks to the beautiful bright orange knobs and the warm colour that the leaves take on before falling, it has, moreover, an undoubted ornamental value.
Anyone with space to dedicate to fruit trees should consider introducing one, carefully evaluating the varieties available to get fruits that are always sweet and soft.
They are commonly called khaki, or persimmon, or diospiri, are the fruits of a plant with a particular name, native to China, the Diospyros kaki, belongs to the same family of ebony and is a medium-sized tree, which in cultivation does not exceed 4-5 meters, but if left to develop can reach 10 m.
It has deciduous leaves, which become reddish before falling, in late autumn; the flowers are greenish, inconspicuous, the plant produces fruits both from the non-pollinated flowers, and from the pollinated flowers.
The fruits are big berries of green colour, become yellow or orange when ripe; the fruits of the khaki contain in the pulp many tannins, which render them practically inedible if not completely ripe, are usually picked still green and firm, in order to be able to transport them and then are left to ripen close to some apples, till when the pulp becomes dark orange and very soft, almost a jelly. In this phase the tannins are completely degraded and the pulp is sweet and delicately scented.
In some cultivars the fruits produced by the pollinated flowers are completely free of tannins, and can be consumed even when they are slightly orange, with firm pulp; these khaki are called apple khaki or vanilla khaki.
Often the fruits remain on the plant even after the foliage has already fallen, in October-November.
Originally the diospiro is a semitropical plant, native to areas with mild winters and hot summers, in fact the first persimmons grown in Italy were planted only in the south of the peninsula, where they also developed native cultivars.
This plant has been cultivated for a long time, however, and over the years have developed cultivars, or even rootstocks, very resistant to cold, and therefore can be grown virtually throughout the peninsula, even in areas where the winter lows are very low, down to -10/-15 ° C.
The khaki is young, as it bears little the displacements, but usually already a 3-4 years old specimen begins to produce the first fruits.
It prefers sunny, or at least very well-lit, locations; it doesn’t fear the cold, therefore it is best to set down in the garden in full earth; the cultivation in pots is not recommended, because usually if the root system is modest these plants produce few fruits.
In the first years after planting the plant needs watering in spring and summer, especially if the climate is particularly dry, the adult specimens are satisfied with the rains, although it is good to provide water in pots of prolonged drought, and especially during the formation of the fruit.
Before planting our diospiro let’s work well the soil, adding some mature manure and possibly pumice stone, to increase drainage, in fact the khaki fear water stagnation.
In the first years, training pruning is carried out to give the plant a cup-shaped shape; afterwards, pruning is generally not necessary, except for the normal cleaning at the end of winter, to remove broken or damaged branches.
At the end of winter we bury at the foot of the mature manure plant, or a handful of slow release granular fertilizer for fruit plants.
Generally these plants tend not to suffer from the attack of parasites or diseases, and are often planted in gardens or orchards with low maintenance, as they tend to endure even periods of drought not excessively prolonged, and bear well the heat and cold.
- Plant native to Japan and the mountainous regions of China, arrived in Europe in the second half of the nineteenth century and has been present in Italy for over a century. Khaki is a tree that can reach the top of the…
- Good morning, I have a problem with a caco-apple plant. It is regularly fertilized and irrigated, it blooms regularly and bears fruit regularly, but when the fruits reach the size of an apple…
- in my garden (mine only for a few months) last fall was planted a vanilla kako in a position that takes little sunshine from October to March and nothing December and January because it is covered by the sun….
- I planted a khaki plant in the spring and these days I notice several flowers still green fallen to the ground while others remained on the tree have aged. On the tree, which is 2 metres high, I can see a lot of green flowers that have fallen to the ground.
These fruits are not loved by everyone, the particular taste, and the consistency of the pulp when ripe, very soft and jelly-like, makes them not particularly palatable; in reality, they are fruits with a delicate taste, and for those who do not like the soft texture, almost to be eaten with a spoon, there are now also vanilla khaki on the market, with a firm pulp like that of a peach or an apple.
It is a fairly sugary fruit, rich in potassium and vitamin A and other mineral salts, which makes them an excellent fruit in the autumn season, when there are few fruits in the garden, waiting for the late autumn citrus fruits.
Generally they are cultivated raw, for a snack or for breakfast, in fact more and more often we find recipes for cakes containing khaki pulp, in the form of puree or in compotes or jams. Unfortunately, cooking does not enhance the taste of khaki, on the contrary it often makes it even more delicate.
Origins and history
As we have said, persimmons are a tree of oriental origin: in South-East Asia, particularly in China, Japan and Korea, they have been cultivated since time immemorial and are highly valued.
However, there is no specimen similar to the fruit in the spontaneous state and it is thought, therefore, that it has been obtained by means of crossings and horticultural selections: in fact, the genus includes a great number of species, mostly endemic to that area or, in a minority way, to the North of the American continent.
In Italy, the first descriptions arrived at the end of 1600 and the plants began in the middle of the XVIII century. The success was rampant and in a short time it became a very common tree, especially in the southern regions. The spread in the North became faster when it began to graft on D. Lotus. Curiously, its botanical name, Diospyros, comes from the Greek and means “food of the gods”.
Features of khaki
It is a fruit tree that usually reaches 6 metres in height, although, where it is endemic, it is not uncommon for it to exceed 10 metres in height, with an expanded canopy. It has a light grey bark which, with time, presents very evident cracks. It has ovate leaves with a smooth margin, with a slightly tomentose back. In the southern regions is mostly evergreen, in the north instead bare in mid-November.
The flowers are small and bell-shaped, of about 2 cm of diameter, pale green, masculine or feminine. The first ones are collected in clusters, the second ones are single. In autumn, the fruits ripen, in the shape of a berry, up to 8 cm of diameter, of a nice translucent orange-red.
IL KAKI IN BREVE
Height at maturity
Generally up to 6 m
Very rustic, if grafted (and protected in the early years)
Full sun, slight shade in the south
Age of fructification
About 8 years
Vegetation of fructification
On new branches
Adaptable, better rich, deep and well drained.
No saline soils
The flowering of khaki
In this respect, khaki is a very special plant. It is dioecious: it can happen that it carries only male or female flowers, but, exceptionally, also hermaphrodites or of both kinds.
Male flowers are not able to produce fruit (and in some years only those are produced, unfortunately, for reasons still unknown); female, however, develop berries even if they are not pollinated. Those deriving from unfertilized flowers will be seedless, the others, on the contrary, will have seeds, but they will also have a sweeter taste, not tannic and alluring.
Fruits from unfertilized female flowers cannot be eaten as soon as they are harvested: to avoid the undesirable consistency, it is advisable to keep them for at least five days in a plastic bag with apples (the ethylene they emit stimulates ripening and the transformation of tannins into sugars).
Today, many varieties are available on the market with hermaphrodite flowers that guarantee a high percentage of non-astronomic fruits. The abundance of pollinating insects is, however, of enormous importance.
Exposure and climate khaki
Diospyros is a typically thermophilic and heliophilic tree. The ideal climate is therefore the Mediterranean one, from central-southern Italy. They grow very well and bear fruit within a few years where temperatures never drop below -5 ° C.
In the northern regions, however, we need to be a little more careful. Let’s orient ourselves preferably on varieties less sensitive to cold and possibly grafted. They are often more rustic and less sensitive to calcareous or clayey soil.
The ideal exposure is always the full sun, even if in the South a slight shading is almost never cause of problems.
Kaki in winter
To obtain a faster development and avoid damage from frost (unfortunately quite frequent) is strongly recommended to insert the specimen near a wall facing south and well lit during the winter season. The sheltered position will also help to protect it from dangerous cold winds.
To preserve the roots, it is a good idea to create a thick mulch of leaves or manure at the base in autumn. A useful practice for the first five years after planting is to cover the trunk with insulating material, such as blankets or rock wool.
It is rather tolerant of substrate, but prefers deep ones, rich in organic matter and slightly acidic. Usually it does not have great difficulties in growing in clayey soils, especially if grafted, but in that case it is necessary to take particular care of the drainage during the planting phase.
The biggest problems can arise if there is an abundance of boron and sodium salts, which can cause physiopathologies: for this reason it is not suitable for plots near the sea.
Watering and khaki irrigation
An always slightly moist, but well drained, substratum is of extreme importance, mainly during the first years of growth. Especially if we live in hot areas it is good to devote ourselves assiduously to irrigation until the plant has not exceeded three years of age. It is estimated that every year it needs at least 800 mm of rain.
Once the specimen is completely free we will only have to monitor the ground, making sure that it never dries completely. Also in this case a good mulch can be of great help.
To give the best khaki requires a well ventilated and vital soil. It is therefore important to distribute abundant floured or pelleted manure to the foot of the plant every autumn. To stimulate the growth of young individuals it may be useful to add a good amount of horn.
From the end of winter until October, every three months, it is useful to include in the soil a granular slow release fertilizer for fruit plants, in the doses recommended by the producer.
As the years go by, the khaki foliage spontaneously takes on a very pleasant expanded shape, so it is not strictly necessary to intervene.
If you want to set the specimen more you must start from the first years, selecting a maximum of four main branches and trying to empty the center, balancing its growth. The most suitable forms for persimmons are the upside-down pot and the pyramid.
Of course, it is always advisable to carry out cleaning operations, removing dead, damaged or diseased branches.
An old specimen that is not very productive can be cut considerably by inducing the growth of new jets from the foot and thus obtaining a complete renewal.
The best period for all these processes is the middle of spring, after the end of the frosts.
Being a plant sensitive to cold, it is best to proceed in the late spring. We always prefer specimens in pots with at least 2 years of age and absolutely avoid breaking the bread of the ground as the roots are very delicate.
Open a wide hole at least twice the size of the vase and break through the walls well with a pitchfork. We create on the bottom a thick draining layer with some gravel. We incorporate in the extracted soil a bit of peat, some manure or horn-rail and some slow release fertilizer. Position the specimen so that the collar is about 4 cm above ground level. Let’s cover without too much compaction. Let us irrigate abundantly.
It can be useful, especially if we live in a windy area, to insert at the same time a pole that acts as a support.
Khaki harvesting and storage
The first fruits are obtained from plants at least 8 years old.
Khaki from non-astringent varieties can be tasted immediately after harvesting, which generally begins at the end of October (in the south) and mid-November (in the north). For the astringent ones, however, it is good to wait for the first frosts: this makes them softer and sweeter. At that point, however, they should be consumed in the shortest possible time because the pulp will be damaged very easily.
Alternatively, they can be harvested as yet immature and stored for about a month, possibly in a room where there are also apples. In this case, they must be kept at a distance from each other and with the peduncle downwards.
Kaki cultivation – Diospyros kaki: Variety of khaki
Chinese persimmon (Diospyros kaki)
Fruit up to 10 cm in diameter
Up to 12 m high
Up to 12 m high
Among the most popular in commerce. Never astringent and with firm pulp
Very large, square-shaped, non-astringent fruits.
Fast enough growth
Suitable for hot climates
Fruits up to 150 gr, light orange, thin skin, dark pulp with vanilla aftertaste
Medium size, flat, quite sweet
Very large and ribbed, sweet from the start
Small size, suitable for small orchards
Fruits dark red
Small size, suitable for small orchards
Requires another pollinator specimen
Big seedless fruits, tasty but astringent
Very decorative for orange leaves in autumn
Very popular in Europe
Medium-sized, flat, brown flesh with slight hints of cocoa
Small orange fruits
Up to 30 m high
From the United States, down to -25°C
Very small, extremely astringent fruits
Up to 30 m high
Originally from temperate Asia.
Used as rootstock.
Up to -20°C
Fruit of about 10 cm in diameter
Up to 18 m high.
From Mexico and USA southern
Watch the Video
- In nature there are many different varieties of fruit trees, which are often placed in the garden, having the space
visits : diospyros kaki