Growing Uncommon Fruits

Planting your own fruit trees and orchards provides access to otherwise uncommon fruits such as persimmon, pawpaw, gooseberry, red currant, juneberry, and hardy kiwi for use in wines, jelly and more.

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    Currants are a delicious and rare fruit worth growing, but watch out for the thorns!  
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    Ripe pawpaw is ready to eat in late summer or early fall. 
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    Persimmon, the "food of the gods." 
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    Juicy and sweet, the juneberry will happily grow even where winter temperatures dip to negative 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
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    You can grow juicy gooseberries.

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"Fruit: rich, bloom dusted, melting, and luscious, such are the treasures of orchard and garden..." wrote A. J. Downing more than a hundred years ago in The Fruit and Fruit Trees of North America. When you raise your own fruit, not only can you harvest at the peak of perfection, but you can also grow uncommon fruits not easily found in the markets. Persimmon, pawpaw, juneberry, gooseberry, and red currant are examples of delectable yet uncommon fruits. They are also easy to grow, requiring neither the repeated spraying nor the skillful pruning demanded by apples, peaches, and other familiar fruits.

Growing Persimmon

The botanical name Diospyros appropriately translates as "food of the gods." Persimmons have a soft, smooth, jelly-like texture and honey-like sweetness. In appearance, the fruits resemble tomatoes, cherry tomatoes in the case of our native American persimmon and large tomatoes in the case of the Oriental persimmon. American persimmon fruits are slightly drier and richer in flavor than those of the Oriental persimmon, the persimmon sometimes found in markets. American persimmon trees also survive and ripen their fruits further north. American persimmon is hardy to negative 25 degree Fahrenheit; Oriental persimmon as low as zero degrees.

Persimmons are not widely known or grown for their fruits because they are too soft for commercial shipping—not a problem when you stand under your own tree and eat the fruits—and because unripe fruits are astringent: but who would eat an unripe peach? Contrary to myth, frost is not necessary to ripen a persimmon, just a sufficiently long season. I garden near the northern limit of persimmon growing, so I grow an early ripening variety of American persimmon, such as meader, pieper, and szukis.

Many oriental persimmons do not need cross-pollination; most American persimmons do. Trees of both types usually have either male or female flowers, so if pollination is needed, you must plant both a male and a female tree. There is no danger of spring frost snuffing out the crop, because the blossoms open relatively late in the season.

A long taproot makes persimmons more difficult to transplant than most other fruit trees. Therefore, plant in spring and use either potted trees or bare root trees that have been freshly dug.

Young persimmon trees grow fast, then settle down to a moderate growth rate as fruiting begins, eventually reaching a height of about fifty feet. Young trees need training so that each main branch has sufficient space to develop, but once bearing has commenced, the trees naturally drop some branches that have fruited, so they are somewhat self-pruning. (In the March, 1982 issue of MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we reported that planting wild mint around our persimmon trees was an unexpected companion-planting discovery. Pests seemed to head for the high road once the mint was established around the base. Our only dilemma was, and is, keeping the mint from taking over the surrounding area once we planted it. It's a ferocious spreader, but a ring of rocks at the desired boundary seems to do the trick.)  

6/29/2009 8:37:31 PM

We recently purchased Jostaberries from our local garden. The area we live in is very alkaline as well as 65oo ft. I was wondering if there was any additional information about these berries. About the only thing that I know is that they will grow here!

Linda Bellucci-Pink
1/20/2009 11:18:41 PM

Hello there. Kudo to a business who teaches us old tricks in the garden and home, but keeps up with the modernation of every decade. My experience follows: Tonight I pulled our my copy of Mother Earth Feb/March 1998 Issue166. As I was enjoying reading it, I came to a page which continued to the next page which was MISSING!!!! As were the next 3 or 4 pages. The whole article on Uncommon Fruits was gone!. I was so annoyed. I then remembered that I had lent my husbands brother my magazine for a month all those years ago. When I asked for it back, he tried to keep it, and I said sorry... those magazines are part of my gardening bible. Well, guess he took the part he liked the best. Anyway, I immediately got on your website to see if it was archived, and there it was! I am so happy! I've printed it out, and put it back inside the magazine. Thank you, Mother Earth News team! Linda Bellucci-Pink



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