Persimmon Leaf Tea
Grow your own and make your own tea! Already have simmon trees? Scroll down to read about making persimmon leaf tea.
Growing Simmon Trees
Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) is native to the Carolina Piedmont and beyond. See the USDA web site for range information (scroll in for county records). Find a place to grow your trees. Persimmons grow fast under good conditions, and grow almost anywhere, sun or partial shade. Plant in a sunny spot near water for more fruit. Simmon trees are male or female, so plant several to ensure you get a female for fruit. Use male simmon leaves for tea to allow female trees to get more energy and sugar for their fruit.
We think it's best to sow seeds rather than transplant. Persimmon seeds must be scarified and stratified to germinate. We scarify in a food mill while making persimmon pulp. Sandpaper on the edges of the seeds is another reported technique. Stratification can be done outdoors or in the fridge in moist media. Waste from the food mill in the rough compost heap has a high germination rate. Stratification can be omitted if the seeds are planted in the fall, however there may be loss to animals and microorganisms.
If transplanting simmons from pots or your compost heap, it's best done early. Persimmons have a deep root system and don't like being moved after the roots have developed.
When growing persimmons, they don't mind having some friend plants around them. Pull up non-native species. A natural, woods-simulated, or ecoyarden habitat with many other species is best for the ecosystem and persimmons. Use no pesticides, herbicides, or other synthetic chemicals. This will allow your simmons to grow in full, unimpeded communion with the local ecosystem. Simmons interact with at least 44 native butterfly and moth species (D. Tallamy, Bringing Nature Home, 2007), in addition to numerous other insects, fungi, invertebrates, vertebrates, and others. This plant intimately and extensively participates in the ecosystem.
Harvesting Simmon Leaves
Harvest leaves with gratitude to the tree and ecosystem. Gratitude and sharing foster communion with individual organisms and the ecosystem and bioregion, which are our touchstones to the Earth and Universe.
If you are foraging, you should be aware of look-alike species and be able to identify them. Persimmon leaves are alternate and have smooth margins. Blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica), also called tupelo, has similar leaves. Edibility of blackgum leaves seems to be unknown. Blackgum does not have the blocky, dark bark of a persimmon. Blackgum leaves tend to cluster in near whorls at the end of twigs. Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) has similar leaves as well. Spicebush tends to be multi-stemmed and is a bush. Spicebush leaves are spicily fragrant when crushed and spicy when tasted, and can be used fresh to make tea. Most dogwoods have opposite leaves, except alternate leaf dogwood, Cornus alternifolia. The venation of dogwood leaves is distinct, the veins turning to follow the leaf margin down the leaf. Dogwood is considered medicinal. Silverbell (Halesia tetraptera), occasional in the Piedmont, has finely serrate leaf margins.
Persimmon leaves should be harvested after the tree has flowered. For better fruit development, wait until after the fruit ripens to harvest female tree leaves. Often the fruit does not ripen until after the leaves have mostly fallen, so in those years only male leaves should be used. Leaves are thought to develop flavor as they mature, so refrain from too early harvest.
Clip each leaf with scissors or garden clippers to avoid damaging the twigs. Pull off any brown or eaten spots and put the rest in your harvesting basket. There are black spots on the leaves very often. Share the tree—don't take more than 10% of the leaves. Some authorities put the sustainable harvest at as much as 30%. Later in the season more leaves can be taken since their work is nearly done.
Drying Simmon Leaves
Back home, rinse the leaves off in pure water. Dry at low temperature, 80-100 ºF in low humidity for several days. Drying leaves should not be exposed to direct sunlight. If the leaves are to be stored for long periods, the dried leaves can be finished in mason jars with rubber sealed lids in a low oven for an hour or so. The lids should seal when the jars cool. Some believe dried leaves get better as they age.
Making Simmon Leaf Tea
Simmon tea is prepared somewhat like green tea. Use freshly boiled and slightly cooled pure water, a heaping tablespoonful of dried whole leaves, and steep for 3 minutes or more. With additional steeping, simmon tea darkens in color to a rich tannic brown and flowers with deeper flavors.
Combine dried persimmon leaves with fresh peach leaves for another beautiful dimension of tea flavor.
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