Back in September a previous Permaculture design student and now loved and valued friend Erin helped out on our second Permaculture Design Certificate course here at Permaculture Eden. On departing Erin gave us 50€ as a donation to use as we wished, firstly we considered buying something practical like fencing wire, but later thought something more fitting for a gift of love would be more appropriate.
I dropped Erin and her mother off at the railway station in Chateauroux for them to continue their travels and decided to make the most of the journey to look in a garden centre there. We don’t usually travel that far (100 Kilometre round trip) without good reason, and the purchase of a single item is not good reason. So anyway I have made the trip and now I am capitalising on that investment of time and fuel, the garden centres in larger towns usually stock a wider range of trees than our local garden centres. This garden centre was no exception, there were a great deal more varieties that I was used to seeing, and one in particulate a Kaki or as we know a Persimmon tree.
A persimmon is the edible fruit of a number of species of trees in the genus Diospyros in the ebony wood family (Ebenaceae). The word Diospyros means “the fruit of the gods” in ancient Greek. As a tree, it is a perennial plant. These trees are not common and the fruit has lost favor in Europe but is much sort after in Asia. I have to admit I have never eaten one myself until after we purchased our tree, we can purchase a kilo of apples for the price of one persimmon, so it’s an extravagance we do without. Having purchased the tree on the recommendation of a book I have been reading I thought it was time to have a taste, and was not disappointed, they are the same size as a peach but with a firm smooth skin more like a plum. My first impression was of eating a large grape as the skin gives way the juices start to flow its very sweat with a subtle flavor just like a good desert grape. The description fruit of the gods is very apt, I would more likely say manor from heaven but the general meaning is the same. The anticipation of such fruit from our own land is already building as I write, of course it’s probably going to be a couple of years before we actually get fruit from it.
We tend not to allow newly planted trees to fruit in the first year or so after planting, we pluck of the flowers the first year as soon as they show up so the tree can concentrate on establishing itself. The second year we decide based on the size and vigor of the tree, if its branches are thick and solid enough to hold fruit we may let it flower and fruit. We keep an eye on a tree for its first fruiting season and may well selectively take young fruit off from each branch so a single branch does not have too much weight to carry. These tactics help us keep more of our young trees alive and healthy although we get less fruit in the early years now that we have been here six years we are starting to see the benefit of those early years of sacrifice and self control.
The persimmon tree has been planted in pride of place at the centre of our herb garden for many reasons, firstly Erin’s design group had a hand in the design of the herb garden and some members of the group later helped construct and plant the garden. The herb garden is close to the house in what we call zone one so it will receive regular attention and it’s a well sheltered spot out of strong winds and early morning hot sun. Keeping out of the early morning hot sun avoids plants being thawed out too quickly on frosty spring mornings. The plethora of strong aromatic herbs at the feet of the tree will help naturally keep it pest free, and for the more determined pests the herbs will attract pest predators. This concentration on placement of plants and other beneficial relationships we can build in to the design of our land is an important part of Permaculture and an important part of our lives and the way we live.