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Khaki is a very common fruit-bearing fruit in our country, although its origin is eastern and its introduction is relatively recent. This success is due to its many virtues: first the fruits ripen between autumn and winter, when the other crops offer very little; the tree, after a few years of acclimatization, is very resistant and productive. We add that, thanks to the beautiful bright orange apples and the warm color that the leaves take on before falling, it has moreover an undoubted ornamental value.
Anyone with a space to devote to fruit trees should consider introducing one, carefully considering the varieties available to obtain sweet and soft fruit.
They are commonly called khaki, or persimmon, or diospiri, they are the fruits of a plant with a particular name, native to China, the Diospyros kaki; it belongs to the same ebony family and it is a medium-sized tree, which in cultivation does not exceed 4-5 meters, but which, if left to develop, can reach 10 m. It has deciduous leaves, which become reddish before falling, in late autumn; the flowers are greenish, inconspicuous, the plants produce fruit both from unpollinated flowers and from pollinated flowers. The fruits are large green berries, becoming yellow or orange when ripe; the fruit of the kaki contains many tannins in the pola, which make them practically inedible if not completely ripe, they are generally still picked green and firm, to be able to transport them and then they are left to mature near some apples, until the pulp becomes dark orange and very soft, almost a jelly. In this phase the tannins are completely degraded and the pulp is sweet and delicately scented. In some cultivars the fruits produced from pollinated flowers are completely devoid of tannins, and can be consumed even when they are slightly orange, with the firm pulp; these khaki are called khaki apple or khaki vanilla.
Often the fruits remain on the plant even after the foliage has already fallen, in October-November.
Cultivation of khaki
Originally the diospiro is a semitropical plant, originating from areas with mild winters and hot summers, in fact the first khaki grown in Italy were planted only in the south of the peninsula, where native cultivars also developed. However, this plant has been cultivated for a long time, and over the years cultivars, or even rootstocks, have developed that are very resistant to cold, and therefore can be grown practically all over the peninsula, even in areas where winter lows are very low, up to at -10 / -15 ° C.
The khaki is a young man, because he bears little movement, but generally already a specimen of 3-4 years begins to produce the first fruits.
It prefers sunny, or very bright, locations; it does not fear the cold, therefore it is placed quietly in full ground in the garden; cultivation in pots is not recommended, because generally if the root system is modest these plants produce few fruits.
In the first years after the plant the plant needs watering in spring and summer, especially if the climate is particularly dry; the adult specimens are satisfied with the rains, even if it is good to supply water in a pot of prolonged drought, and in particular during the formation of the fruits.
Before planting our diospirus, let's work the soil well, adding some mature manure and possibly pumice stone to increase drainage; in fact, the khaki fear water stagnation.
In the early years training pruning is practiced, to give the plant a cup shape; subsequently pruning is generally not necessary, except for normal cleaning at the end of winter, to remove broken or damaged branches.
At the end of winter we dig at the feet of the mature manure plant, or a handful of slow release granular fertilizer for fruit plants.
Generally these plants tend not to suffer from the attack of pests or diseases, and are often planted in low maintenance gardens or orchards, since they tend to withstand periods of drought that are not excessively prolonged, and tolerate heat and cold well .
These fruits are not loved by everyone, the particular taste, and the consistency of the pulp when ripe, very soft and gelatinous, makes them not particularly palatable; actually it is a fruit with a delicate taste, and for those who do not like the soft consistency, almost to eat with a spoon, vanilla khaki, with a firm pulp like that of a peach or an apple, are now also commercially available.
It is a fairly sugary fruit, rich in potassium and vitamin A and other mineral salts, which makes them an excellent seasonal fruit in autumn, when there are few fruits in the garden, waiting for late autumn citrus fruits.
In general, they are grown raw, as a snack or at breakfast, in fact more and more often we find dessert recipes containing khaki pulp, in the form of purée or in compotes or jams. Unfortunately cooking does not enhance the taste of khaki, on the contrary it often makes it even more delicate.
Origins and history
As we have said, the persimmon is a tree of oriental origin: in Southeast Asia, particularly in China, Japan and Korea, it has been cultivated since the dawn of time and held in high regard. However, there is no specimen similar to the fruit-bearing in the spontaneous state and it is therefore thought that it was obtained through crosses and horticultural selections: the genus in fact includes a large number of species, mostly endemic to that area or, to a minor extent, in the North of the American continent.
In Italy the first descriptions arrived at the end of the 1600s and the installations began in the mid-18th century. The success was rampant and soon became a very common tree, especially in the southern regions. Spreading in the North became faster since it began to graft onto D. Lotus. Curiously its botanical name, Diospyros, derives from the Greek and means "food of the gods".
Characteristics of khaki
It is a fruit tree that usually reaches 6 meters in height, although, where it is endemic, it is not uncommon to exceed 10, with an expanded crown. It has a light gray bark that over time has very obvious cracks. It has ovate leaves with a smooth edge, with a slightly tomentose back. In the southern regions it is mostly evergreen, while in the north it is bare in the middle of November.
The flowers are small and bell-shaped, about 2 cm in diameter, light green, male or female. The former are gathered in bunches, the latter are single. In autumn the berries, in the shape of a berry, mature up to 8 cm in diameter, of a beautiful orange-red translucent.
THE KAKI IN BRIEF
|Height at maturity||Generally up to 6 m|
|It needs water||Medium-high|
|Rusticitа||Very rustic, if grafted (and protected for the first few years)|
|Exposure||Full sun, slight shade in the South|
|Fruiting age||About 8 years|
|Fruiting vegetation||On new branches|
|Ground||Adaptable, better rich, deep and well drained. No saline soils|
The flowering of khaki
The khaki in this aspect is a very special plant. It is a godica: it may happen that it bears only male or female flowers, but, exceptionally, also hermaphrodites or both genders.
The male flowers are not able to produce fruit (and in some years only those are produced, unfortunately, for reasons that are still unknown); the feminine, on the other hand, develop berries even if they are not pollinated. Those deriving from unfertilized flowers will have no seeds, the others, on the contrary, will have them, but they will also be endowed with a sweeter, non-tannic and non-tasting taste.
The fruits deriving from a non-fertilized female flower cannot be eaten as soon as they are harvested: to avoid the undesirable consistency it is advisable to keep them for at least five days in a plastic bag with apples (the ethylene they emit stimulates maturation and transformation of the tannins in sugars).
Today, many varieties with hermaphrodite flowers are available that guarantee a high percentage of non-astringent fruits. The abundance of pollinating insects is, however, of enormous importance.
Exposure and khaki climate
Diospyros is a typically thermophilic and heliophilous tree. The ideal climate is therefore the Mediterranean one, in central-southern Italy. In fact, they grow very well and bear fruit within a few years where temperatures never drop below -5 ° C.
In the northern regions, on the other hand, you need to have some extra care. We preferably orientate ourselves to varieties less sensitive to cold and possibly grafted. They are often more rustic and less sensitive to calcareous or clayey soil.
The ideal exposure is always full sun, even if in the South a slight shade is almost never a cause of problems.
Kaki in the winter
To achieve a faster development and avoid frost damage (unfortunately quite frequent) it is highly recommended to place the specimen near a wall facing south and well lit during the winter season. The sheltered position will also help protect it from dangerous cold winds.
To preserve the roots it is good to create at the base, in autumn, a thick mulch based on leaves or manure. A useful practice, for the first five years after implantation, is to cover the trunk with insulating material, such as blankets or rock wool.
It is rather tolerant in terms of substrate, however it prefers deep ones, rich in organic matter and slightly acid. Generally it does not find great difficulties to grow in clayey soils, especially if grafted, but in that case it is necessary to take special care of the drainage during the planting phase.
The greatest problems can arise if there is an abundance of boron and sodium salts, which can cause physiopathologies: for this reason it is not suitable for plots near the sea.
Kaki watering and irrigation
A substratum that is always slightly moist, but well drained, is of extreme importance mainly during the first years of growth. Especially if we live in warm areas it is good to dedicate ourselves to irrigation until the plant is over three years old. It is estimated that each year requires at least 800 mm of rain.
Once the specimen is completely free we will only have to monitor the ground, making sure that it never gets completely dry. Also in this case a good mulch can be very helpful.
To give the best, the khaki requires a well-ventilated and vital soil. It is therefore important to distribute plenty of flour or pellet manure every autumn at the foot of the plant. To stimulate the growth of young individuals it may be useful to add a good amount of cornunghia.
From the end of winter until October, every three months, it is useful to incorporate granular slow release fertilizer for fruit plants into the soil, in the doses recommended by the producer.
The khaki crown spontaneously assumes, over the years, a very pleasant expanded form: therefore it is not strictly necessary to intervene.
If you want to set the sample more, you must start from the early years, selecting at most four main branches and trying to empty the center, balancing its growth. The most suitable forms for the persimmon are the inverted vase and the pyramid.
Of course it is always advisable to carry out cleaning operations, removing dead, damaged or diseased branches.
An old, poorly productive specimen can be cut off considerably by inducing the growth of new shoots from the foot and thus obtaining a complete renewal.
The best time for all these processes is the middle of spring, after the end of the frosts.
Being a plant sensitive to cold it is good to proceed in late spring. We always prefer the potted specimens with at least 2 years of age and we absolutely avoid breaking the earthen bread as the roots are very delicate.
We open a large hole at least twice the size of the vase and dig the walls well with a pitchfork. We create a thick draining layer with gravel on the bottom. We incorporate a little peat, some manure or cornung and some slow release fertilizer into the extracted soil. We position the specimen so that the collar is about 4 cm from the ground level. We cover without compacting too much. Let us water abundantly. It can be useful, especially if we live in a windy area, at the same time insert a pole that acts as a support.
Khaki collection and storage
The first fruiting occurs from plants at least 8 years old.
The khaki of the non-astringent varieties can be enjoyed immediately after harvest, which generally occurs from the end of October (in the South) and mid-November (in the North). For those astringent, instead, it is good to wait for the first frosts: this makes them softer and sweeter. At that point, however, they should be consumed as quickly as possible because the pulp will be ruined very easily.
Alternatively they can still be harvested immature and stored for about a month, possibly in a room where there are also apples. In this case they must be kept apart from each other and with the stalk downwards.
Kaki cultivation - Diospyros kaki: Variety of khaki
|Kind species||Chinese kaki (Diospyros kaki)||Fruits up to 10 cm in diameter||Up to 12 m in height||Up to 12 m in height|
|'Sharon'|| Among the most widespread on the market. Never astringent and with firm pulp|
|'Fuyu'||Very large fruits, square in shape, not astringent. Great taste||Growth fast enough||Suitable for hot climates|
|"Vainiglia"||Fruits up to 150 grams, light orange, thin skin, dark flesh with vanilla aftertaste|
|'Jiro'||Medium size, flat, fairly sweet|
|'Hana Fuyu'||Very large and ribbed, immediately sweet||Small size, suitable for small orchards|| Early maturation|
|'Gosho'||Dark red fruits||Small size, suitable for small orchards||Needs another pollinator|
|'Muscat'||Large, seedless, tasty, but astringent fruits||Very decorative for the orange leaves in autumn||Very common in Europe|
|"Chocolate"||Medium-sized, flat, brown flesh with slight hints of cocoa|
|Diospyros virginiana||Small orange fruits||Up to 30 m in height||From the United States, up to -25 ° C|
|Diospyros lotus||Very small, extremely astringent fruits||Up to 30 m in height|| Originally from temperate Asia. Used as a rootstock.|
Up to -20 ° C
|Diospyros obtusifolia||Fruits of about 10 cm in diameter||Up to 18 m in height.||From Mexico and southern USA|
Watch the video
In nature there are many different varieties of fruit trees, which are often placed in the garden, having space
visit: diospyros kaki