Sunday, September 7, 2014

Persimmons vs. Pawpaws

Persimmons (Diospyros virginiana) and Pawpaws (Asimina triloba) are two species of fruit that are native to the eastern United States and possibly, extreme southern Canada.

The two fruits have a few commonalities and many differences.

Ripe Persimmons.  Picture from HERE

A nearly-ripe Pawpaw hiding in the leaves.


  • They are both incredibly free of insect pests that damage fruit
  • The pulp of both fruits are intensely sweet and incredibly fragrant.
  • Both fruit are acquired tastes.
  • They both are resistant to browsing damage from deer (with the nod going to Pawpaws as more resistant)
  • They both throw abundant root suckers and you are a lucky man if you have some choice seedlings because, in time, you will have MANY suckers of that choice seedling
  • They both have quirky pollination requirements
  • They are both fairly resistant to late spring frosts (with the nod going to Persimmon)
  • They are both capable of handling wide extremes of climate, bothered little by heat, humidity or -20 degree Fahrenheit winter temperatures
  • While capable of surviving on eroded subsoil they explode into productivity on deep alluvial soils (high flood plains)

Cut Pawpaw showing seeds. Picture from HERE
  • They are both usually filled with seeds of impressive size.  Large seeds from Pawpaws and Kentucky Coffee Trees (Gymnocladus dioicus) were used by native Americans in games-of-chance before instant lottery tickets showed up.
  • They both spring from tropical origins and their seeds seem to demand much warmth and time to germinate...which probably explains their rarity in the north.
  • It is likely that both were spread by native Americans either via midden-pile seeds germinating or, less likely, deliberate cultivation.


  •  Persimmons can hang on the tree in a state of divine ripeness for almost two months.  Pawpaws have a window-of-pickability of about four days.  This is a huge deal if you are planting fruit trees as part of your preparedness strategy.
  • A tree full of ripe persimmon shouts to the world, "Here I am!"  The leaves have fallen and the fruit glows like golden surveyor's tape.  Ripe Pawpaws wear camo and hide in the leaves.
  • Most Persimmons are about the size of a golf ball with the monsters running slightly smaller than a baseball.  Pawpaws start at about 6 ounces (170 grams) and can run up to a pound (450 grams).
  • Persimmons ripen in the cool of the fall.  Pawpaw ripen during the mosquitoes of the summer.
  • Persimmons want  to be trees.  Pawpaws want to be bushes
  • Persimmon fruit are melty and sweet;  like jam or a slightly runny date (any recipe that uses dates can be used with persimmons with minor tweaking).  Pawpaws are soft/melting like a perfectly ripe banana or an avocado.
  • A bad Persimmon fruit will impress your grandkids. They probably did not know that you can spit thirty feet.  A bad Pawpaw is merely boring.
  • The pulp of the Persimmon does not brown (suggesting high levels of antioxidants).  The fruit of the Pawpaw does brown.
  • Persimmon fruit, while whole, has a fragrance intensity of a ripe apple.  A ripe Pawpaw has the fragrance intensity of a pan of frying bacon.  Good luck sneaking a ripe Pawpaw into the house!
  • Children have been known to engage in Persimmon fights.  They are like small, soft snowballs that can stain clothing.  There is no recorded occurrance of a Pawpaw fight.
  • A Persimmon is a light demanding plant.  Pawpaws will cheerfully grow in the shade of Silver Maples, Black Walnuts and other tall trees of the flood plains.  It may never fruit but will patiently bide its time until the big guy falls and light pours through the opening in the canopy.

Persimmon links:

England's Orchard and Nursery  follow links Fruit Trees > Persimmons
Nolin Nut Farms
Indiana Nut Growers a little bit history
Google: Jerry Lehman, Terre Haute, Indiana  Give him a phone call and tell him you want to get smarter about persimmons.

Pawpaw links:

Nolin Nut Farm
A website at Kentucky State University


  1. Lots of pawpaws in Louisiana... LOTS!!!

  2. One of my favorite blogs is written by a Louisiana Pawpaw.

  3. Contributed via email by Lucky

    "I prefer the persimmons, too.

    My experience trying to share pawpaws, was that folks either liked them or found them disgustingly insipid. Most fell in the latter camp.

    I made some pawpaw cookies several years back, with pulp that had been in the freezer for a couple of years. Took 'em to work. Induced gastrointestinal distress in all who ate 'em. The director was out for 2-3 days with vomiting/diarrhea.

    Don't know if it was some compound in the pawpaws, staphylococcal enterotoxin, or just coincidence that I served them at the same time someone introduced a viral agent into the population - but my pawpaw cookies are infamous, and I'll probably never live it down. ;>)