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Saturday essay: Persimmons, anyone?

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Friday, Oct. 12, 2012, 9:00 p.m.

Any gardener worth his mulch loves a challenge. If you see an interesting but unfamiliar plant species on a trip, you think, “Hey, I'd like to grow that!”

So, you snip a few leaves, pick a few berries or pods, then take it all home to identify it. Once you've done that, and as long as it's not an invasive species, you put your junior horticulture skills to the test.

Thus, the great persimmon experiment has begun.

Two persimmons made their way back to Western Pennsylvania from a trip last month to Southern Shores, N.C., along the Outer Banks. Not trees, mind you, but the “fruit,” which technically is a big berry.

Persimmons look like a cross between a half-grown peach and a small tomato. (The fact that the flower sepals stay with the orb when picked reinforces the tomato visual.) Cut it and the “meat” is the consistency of pudding. Taste it and it's just as sweet.

The dozen or so seeds harvested will have to be conditioned (“stratified”) over the winter — kept moist and cool in the refrigerator for three to four months — then planted in the spring.

But it will be many years before any berries are produced. And then only if it can be figured out if this persimmon is male or female and an opposite-sex mate is found for proper pollination.

Can bananas be far behind? As a matter of fact ... .

— Colin McNickle

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