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Japanese Kaki

The large-fruited varieties known from the supermarket are Japanese kaki (Diospyros kaki).

The trees should be protected in the first two years. The winter hardiness of the kaki trees goes down to -15° Celsius. The older the wood, the better the hardiness is and this is significantly better than the figs in our trials.

Three types of Japanese kaki

1. Kaki, which like the American kaki are astringent when firm and can be enjoyed only when soft – but then with pleasure and juice, for example our kaki 'Aroma'.

2. The – let's say – semi-hard kakis; these are then only firm and free of bitter substances if they are pollinated and produce seeds, e.g. the variety 'Cioccolatino'.

3. Kaki varieties which in any case can be harvested when firm and enjoyed crisp.This type is most popular nowadays and it is the type mostly found in supermarkets. By the way, this kaki gets soft and bulgy as it matures, which means it can’t be left to hang eternally on the tree like its cousins. 

The main problem with this crisp and most popular type has been the too late maturity: there was no danger in our climate that the overripe, crisp kakis would soften... No, in many cases they were simply missing the sugar and the aroma because of the too short vegetation period. Thanks the kaki Early Fuyu we now have a variety that is crisp and ready-to-eat starting in October in our region and in areas with less sun in early November. 

Early Fuyu. Bon appetit!

And what does the American kaki tastes like? The American kaki (Diospyros virginiana) forms small, berry-like fruits, 3-5 cm in diameter. The best variety 'Meader' also develops a good aroma, but the fruits must ripen completely. The American kaki varieties are absolutely hardy in our region because they can withstand temperatures down to -25/30° Celsius. We will be getting the young plants and in the future also new varieties from the Fruithunters® Jim Gilbert and Lorraine Gardner. American kaki have a good future also with us as a fruit-bearing tree for the home: relatively compact growing, very robust, hardy, and as a bonus, it has tasty fruits and a spectacular, yellow autumn colouring.

They are much smaller than the Japanese kaki, almost like berries. Thanks to their pronounced ability to produce fruits without pollination – thus parthenocarpic – the fruits usually have no seeds and are therefore quite edible. But beware: they are infinitely bitter and astringent when immature and hard.

I am surprised again every year how the astringency disappears as the fruit gets softer and matures, creating a flavour, which, next to the Japanese kaki – yes, it may be much bigger – looks quite old. 

The American kaki offers more sugar and an intense sweet flavour than the sometimes somewhat flat-tasting Japanese kaki. But of course I admit: this is a personal impression! By the way: if the American kaki simply does not want to mature properly and does not seem to get softer and sweeter even in the fruit bowl, then it can be placed in the refrigerator for two days as a punishment – and there you have it, the rest of the astringency has disappeared.


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