Diospyros kaki

Diospyros kaki

The kaki, also known as diòspiro or diòspero (Diospyros kaki L.f., 1782) is a fruit tree species of the family of the Ebenaceae.

Systematics –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to the Domain Eukaryota, Kingdom Plantae, Subarranean Tracheobionta, Superdivisione Spermatophyta, Magnoliophyta Division, Magnoliopsida Class, Subclass Dilleniidae, Ebenales Order, Ebenaceae Family and therefore to the Diospyros Genus and to the D. kaki Species.

Etymology –
The term Diospyros comes from the Greek Διός diós, genitive of Ζεύς Zeus (Jupiter) and πυρός pyrós, wheat, food: food of Jupiter (this name for the Greeks referred to the lotus). The specific khaki epithet is the abbreviation of the original Japanese name kaki no ki, with which the plant was locally called.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
The Diospyros kaki is a plant native to China, then spread to Korea, Japan and other countries. It was introduced in Italy at the end of the last century and here it was widely diffused until the fly arrived that brought down production from 3 million to 50 thousand tons today; the regions concerned are Campania, Emilia Romagna, and in smaller quantities Sicily, Veneto and Marche. In Europe it is particularly present also in Spain.

Description –
Khaki is a tree that can reach considerable size and long-lived; we can distinguish wood-like branches, mixed branches and brindilli, with mixed gems inserted at the apex of the branch. In this species there are monoic, godic and intermediate subjects; therefore we can find hermaphroditic flowers, pistilliferi, staminiferi; solitary female flowers, while the hermaphrodites can also be in three-headed inflorescences (where the two lateral ones are masculine), finally the masculine ones are in three-headed inflorescences. Flowering occurs on the branches of the year. The fruit is a berry that can be with a maximum number of 8 seeds or even apirena. Fruits can also be obtained via the parthenocarpic route.

Cultivation –
The Diospyros kaki is a typical species of temperate-warm environments even though, thanks to its many varieties it can adapt to different climates. However, it is not a plant that is very resistant to cold, it can withstand -15 ° C, and can not tolerate late frosts. Windy areas are to be avoided because in their presence the branches run down with the load of the fruit. For the cultivation technique you can consult the present sheet.

Uses and Traditions –
Persimmon, also called apple of the East or Lotus of Japan is a symbol of winter but of the characteristics of summer fruits: sweetness, juiciness and color. His soft pulp made him deserve the scientific name of “diospiro” that is “food of Jupiter or bread of the gods”. The plant originally from the hot regions of China, where it was already known around the year one thousand.
The Diospyros kaki is considered the tree of the seven virtues: it lives for a long time, from a great shadow, among its branches there are no nests, it is not attacked by the parasites (but this thing is less true), its red-yellow leaves are decorative from autumn to frost, wood from a beautiful fire, is rich in substances fertilizing the soil thanks to the abundant fall of foliage.
The first people to cultivate it intensively were the Japanese; to get to Europe you have to wait until the end of the 18th century, but at the beginning it is cultivated as an ornamental plant. The discovery of its value as a fruit plant is first in France and then in Italy and dates back to after the mid-800s.
The first example of persimmon planted in our country, dates back to the year 1870/71 and takes place in the Florentine garden of Boboli. It seems that Giuseppe Verdi, conquered by the sweetness of its fruits, was one of the most delicious admirers.
The persimmon takes its name in the Neapolitan language of “legnasanta”. The origin of the name lies in the fact that, once the fruit is opened, a characteristic image of Christ on the cross can be seen inside; in Sicily, on the other hand, the seed is considered sacred because, once it is half open, it shows the bud of the new seedling, which resembles a white-diaphanous hand, considered the “manuzza” of Maria or dâ Virgini.
The fruits of the persimmon, of intense orange color, have a very sweet, soft and creamy gelatinous pulp; these are commercially harvested slightly green and matured later; in fact it is necessary to eliminate the typical astringent taste caused by the high content of tannins of the unripe fruits. From a nutritional point of view, Diospyros kaki contains about 272 kJ (65 kcal) per 100 g. It consists of about 18% sugars, 78.20% water, 0.80% protein, 0.40% fat, plus a fair amount of vitamin C and B vitamins. It is also rich in beta- carotene and potassium; possesses laxative and diuretic properties.
The varieties are distinguished not only for the vegetative characteristics, above all for their behavior following the pollination. The cultivars can be divided into two main groups: fertilization constants (CF): fruits that maintain the same color of the pulp (constantly clear) both in the fruitful and in the parthenocarpic ones; variables to fertilization (VF): fruits that modify the characteristics of the pulp that is clear and astringent in the parthenocarpic fruits, while it becomes more or less dark and not astringent in those fertilized.

Preparation Mode –
The fruits of khaki are consumed fresh and at the right level of maturity, as soon as the astringent taste of tannins disappears. They are also excellent for jams, fruit jellies and pies; they are also ideal as desserts, and if you do not want to serve them naturally (remember they are eaten by digging the pulp with a teaspoon), you can also taste them enriched with sugar and champagne or maraschino liqueur with or without sugar (depending on taste) or with the addition of lemon juice. Variables and tastes are however multiple.

Guido Bissanti

Sources
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Pharmacy of the Lord, Advice and experience with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Publisher
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (edited by), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.

Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only and do not in any way represent a medical prescription; there is therefore no liability for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.

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