This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
It is something singular that a fruit with as many good qualities to recommend it as the Persimmon has, should have been so much neglected by horticulturists. As an ornamental tree, with its beautiful shape and glossy foliage, its profusion of rich orange fruit, hanging among its autumn-tinted leaves, and in some varieties holding its fruit all winter, it has few superiors. It is perfectly hardy, and will grow in any exposure; on the bleak barren hill-sides exposed to the stormy winds, or in the lowlands among the marshes and stagnant swamps.
Captain John Smith, of Pocahontas notoriety, describes it among the luxuries he found in Virginia. He says, "We daily feasted with good bread, Virginia pease, pumpions, and putchamins; fish, fowle, and diverse sorts of wild beasts, so fat as we could eat them," etc. He elsewhere describes putchamins as a species of indigenous plum, with fruit much like a medlar, first green, then yellow, and red when ripe. "If it be not ripe, it will draw a man's mouth awry with much torment. If ripe, it is as delicious as an apricot." The valiant captain's description of the fruit is a very good one. There is nothing so unpleasant as a green persimmon, and very few fruits so grateful as a ripe one.
The Persimmon sports very much in the quality of its fruit. Some of the trees ripen their fruit in August and September, and are gone before the leaves fall, and others ripen all through October and November; while we have seen the fruit hang on the tree until the bursting buds of spring pushed it off. Some are flat, depressed at both ends; others globose and oblong. Some are a light lemon yellow; others, orange; while others, again, are red, becoming almost black when thoroughly ripe. Some are so soft and watery that, as they fall from the tree, they are mashed, and the contents run like thick molasses; while others are so tough that they rebound like an India-rubber ball. Some are never fit to eat, retaining to the last that bitter, astringent quality which makes one pucker up his lips as if to whistle; while the best of them are perfectly luscious.
The fruit is used in making a most delightful beer, far preferable, in my estimation, to lager beer, or any of the drinks we have under the name of beer. It yields an enormous product of whisky when distilled. It can be dried and put away like raisins; in fact, some varieties dry themselves upon the tree, when they can be put up in boxes, and kept an indefinite period. The pulp can be separated from the seeds, spread upon earthen dishes, and dried, like peach leather. A sirup can be made from the fruit, superior in flavor to the best molasses.
The wood is very close-grained, heavy, and susceptible of the highest polish, and so hard and smooth, that I doubt not it would answer every purpose of more costly wood in engraving or wood cuts.
[Mr. Adair's suggestions deserve consideration. We remember a couple of instances of the Persimmon being planted strictly as an ornamental tree, and think highly of it for this purpose. We have seen a variety on Long Island which produces a seedless fruit, and bears abundantly. It is large, and very fine when fully ripe. - Ed].