Wood Grain Ebony

Ebony is a modest size family of tropical and subtropical trees (Ebenaceae) best known for hard wood of dark color, ranging all the way to jet black. The family includes two genera, Euclea, noted for hard dark wood, and Diospyros, noted for hard dark wood, but also for a few species producing edible fruit, most notably persimmons.

More on Ericales, the Heather Order.

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Date Plum   -   [Caucasian Persimmon, Lilac Persimmon; Dios Pyros (Greek); Diospyros lotus]
Berries on Tree

Native to Western Asia and Southern Europe, this is the persimmon known to the ancient Greeks as "Fruit of the Gods". The English "Date Plum" is a direct translation of the Persian name Khormaloo. This persimmon is one of several items suspected of being the "Lotus" mentioned in the Odyssey, so delicious its eaters would forget to go home. It is pretty much unknown in the US where Asian and native persimmons dominate. The fresh fruit is about 3/4 inch diameter and fairly tart, but after a frost or when dried it is quite sweet.   Photo distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0.

Jackalberry   -   [African Ebony; Jakkalsbessie (Afrikaans); Diospyros mespiliformis]

Native to the savannas of Africa, the fruit of this tree grows to a little over 1 inch in diameter and turns purple when ripe. It is much liked by jackals and is a traditional food of the Bantu people. Described as having a "lemon-like" flavor, jackalberries are often made into preserves. The wood is highly resistant to termite damage, as one would be expect of a tree that likes to grow on termite mounds.   Photo by Marco Schmidt distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0.

Persimmon - American   -   [Eastern Persimmon, Common Persimmon, Diospyros virginiana]

Native to the Southeastern US this persimmon is small, growing to about 1-1/2 inches diameter. It is highly astringent when unripe but becomes sweet and tasty when completely ripe. It is a very popular fruit and grown commercially in its native region. Aside from eaten fresh it is used to make a kind of molasses and fermented with hops and grain into a beer, which may be further processed into brandy. It is not much exported from the region and never appears here in California where Fuyus and Hachiya are grown in quantity. It produces an excellent ebony wood, but not for about 100 years.   Photo by Gphoto from Wikimedia Commons presumed under license Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike v3.0.

Persimmon - Fuyu   -   [Japanese Persimmon; Fuyugaki, Fuyu, Kaki (Japan); Sharon Fruit (Israel - Israel trade name); Diospyros kaki var Fuyu]

Native to China, this persimmon was taken to Japan long ago, and brought to Southern California early in the 20th century. Produce markets here now display these in big bins when in season (October through December). They are firm, durable and easy to market, and can be eaten in that state because they're a non-astringent variety.

They are pleasant enough to eat as sold, crunchy and mildly sweet. Unfortunately they'll never get a whole lot better (see Hachiya). Choose fruit that is mostly yellow to orange with little green. They'll keep out on the counter for as much as a couple of weeks.

Persimmon - Goma   -   [Diospyros kaki]
This is a pollination-variant of non-astringent persimmons. When fully pollinated the fruit is brown inside rather than orange, and it can be eaten while still firm. Much prized in Japan, some are grown in California but are not commercially available - only direct from the growers and at farmer's markets in the growing area.

Persimmon - Hachiya   -   [Japanese Persimmon; Kaki (Japan); Diospyros kaki var Hachiya]

Native to China and carried to Japan long ago, this was formerly the most common persimmon in Southern California markets. The Hachiya has recently been overtaken by the less sweet and less flavorful Fuyu due to ripening and handling considerations. When not completely ripe the Hachiya is very astringent - it'll pucker your lips and twist your tongue - and the time between unripe and over-ripe is very short. On the other hand, eating a perfectly ripened Hachiya is an experience as sensuous as eating something else, except it tastes better. No Fuyu can compete with this.

Hachiyas are in season from October into December. When selecting fruit choose those that are even in appearance and without bruises or soft spots. You will rarely find one perfectly ripe in the market but select for just a hint of give - not too hard. Set on the counter and check every day until they yield easily to light pressure but do not feel mushy. Enjoy.

In Japan, China, Korea, Vietnam and in small amounts in California, this type of persimmon is dried using a traditional process. In Korea it is fermented and made into a persimmon vinegar. In Taiwan astringent varieties that aren't quite ripe are pickled in lime water to get rid of the astringency and sold as "crisp persimmons".

Sapote Negro   -   [Black Sapote, Black Persimmon, Chocolate pudding fruit; Zapote prieto (Spanish); Diospyros digyna]
Cut fruit

Native to eastern Mexico and Central America as far south as Colombia, this tree is completely unrelated to the Sapote Blanko (White Sapote) or the Mammey Sapote. The fruit pulp is often served mixed with orange juice and honey and likened to a chocolate pudding.   Photo by Abalg distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike v3.0.

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