There tends to be some confusion about Nightingale and Hachiya persimmons. Despite what some claim, they are not the same thing, they’re two different varieties of Oriental persimmon, Diospyrus kaki, which look fairly similar in appearance.
Both of these are astringent varieties, they can only be eaten when the fruit is soft and ripe, as their unripe fruit contains water-soluble tannins in the flesh which make your mouth pucker and dry, making them quite unpalatable if eaten too early. Astringent varieties are completely ripe when the skin becomes translucent, the fruit is soft to the touch and flesh is like jelly.
By contrast, the non-astringent varieties such as Fuyu and Jiro lose their astringency quite early during maturity and can be eaten when they are still crunchy in texture like an apple, all the way through to when they soften.
By comparing Hachiya and Nightingale persimmons side by side, we can see that there are differences between the two varieties.
Hachiya Persimmon Description
- Fruit Shape: Oblong-conical or heart-shaped and pointed at the apex, meaning that the fruit is wider at the top and has a pointed end.
- Fruit Size: Very large in size, up to 9.5 cm (3-3/4”) long x 8cm (3-1/4”) wide.
- Fruit Colour: Bright deep orange-red glossy skin with occasional black streaks, and dark-yellow flesh inside.
- Fruit Seeds: Seedless or with a few seeds.
- Fruit Quality: Excellent
- Fruit Season: Mid-season to late. In (northern hemisphere) US, this is from late October to November, or later in the season, from mid-November to mid December in California. In Australia (southern hemisphere), mid season corresponds to May.
- Tree Description: Large upright-spreading, vigorous tree, height 6-10m (20-35’) x width 4.5-7.5m (15-25’), prolific bearing.
- Other Description: Excellent dual purpose fruit and ornamental specimen, In Japan, Hachiya is mostly used for drying rather than eating. The fruit will often have concentric ring cracking at the apical (pointed) end and will ripen unevenly starting from these points.
Since the Hachiya is a common variety in the US which is reasonably well documented, the above information which I have compiled from various reliable, authoritative sources will serve as our benchmark for comparison of the two varieties.
I happen to have a Nightingale persimmon tree growing in my garden, which was fruiting at the time of writing of this article, allowing me to make a very accurate comparison against the Hachiya. All photographs in this article are of my Nightingale persimmon tree.
In the description below, I have highlighted the similarities and differences between the two varieties in bold-italics to make them easier to identify.
Nightingale Persimmon Description
- Fruit Shape: Oblong-conical or heart-shaped and pointed at the apex, meaning that the fruit is wider at the top and has a pointed end. The fruit is the same shape as the Hachiya, as can be seen in all the persimmons pictured in this article, which are of my Nightingale tree.
- Fruit Size: Very large in size, up to 9cm (3-1/2”) long x 8cm (3-1/4”) wide. I measured the largest fruit on my Nightingale tree and can confirm the fruit size is basically the same size as Hachiya.
- Fruit Colour: Bright deep orange-red glossy skin, same colour as Hachiya, but without the occasional black streaks which Hachiya displays, and the flesh is definitely a deep red-orange colour inside, not dark-yellow inside like Hachiya.
- Fruit Seeds: Seedless or with a few seeds (average of 2.5 seeds per fruit). The fruit pictured below, which I picked from my Nightingale tree, has no seeds, so it’s the same as Hachiya.
- Fruit Quality: Excellent, same as Hachiya.
- Fruit Season: Fruit ripens early to late June in Melbourne, Australia (southern hemisphere). Nightingale is described as an early season variety, but from various descriptions it appears to ripen around the same time or a bit later than Hachiya, which is a mid to late season variety. There seems to be a lack of clear information about what season Nightingale’s harvest period falls into. I have a Dai Dai Maru persimmon which is described as an early to mid-season variety which ripens before Hachiya, and this one normally ripens before my Nightingale tree in my garden. For the first time in a decade my Nightingale persimmon fruited before the Dai Dai Maru persimmon! I suspect the Nightingale is a mid-late season variety also, similar to the Hachiya.
- Tree Description: Semi-dwarf tree, upright-spreading habit, height 2-4m (6-12’) x width 2-4m (6-12’), height up to 5m (15’) according to some sources, precocious bearing. Small compact tree, much smaller than Hachiya.
- Other Description: Excellent dual purpose fruit and ornamental specimen, just like Hachiya, but smaller in size, more suitable for small backyards, In Japan, Fruit are large and juicy, suitable for drying just like Hachiya. Unlike the Hachiya variety, I have not seen any concentric ring cracking at the apical (pointed) end of the fruit that Hachiya display or any uneven ripening starting from these points as occurs with Hachiya. I have only witnessed even fruit ripening over many years with the Nightingale variety.
Assessing the Differences Between Nightingale and Hachiya Persimmons
Both Hachiya and Nightingale have the same sized, excellent flavoured deep red-orange coloured fruit, with little to no seeds which are suitable for drying. Nightingale fruit do not appear to have the black steaks on the skin which Hachiya fruit sometimes display. Nightingale persimmons have a much darker red-orange flesh inside compared to the dark yellow flesh of Hachiya. Nightingale is a small, compact semi-dwarf tree while Hachiya is a very large, vigorous tree.
Both are very heavy bearing, producing large clusters of very large fruit. Descriptions of Hachiya state that the trees often bear so much fruit that the limbs have to be propped up with bamboo poles. I find I have to do the same with the Nightingale tree, I use tomato stakes with soft tree ties to support the overloaded tree branches!
The choice between one variety or the other would really be determined by the amount of available space, as both trees are excellent, highly productive astringent varieties.
The only criticism I have read of the Hachiya persimmon variety is that cropping may be unreliable as it has a habit of dropping fruit in hot weather. looking further into the matter, I found that its ability to set and hold fruit is sometimes a problem if this variety is grafted onto American Persimmon Diospyros virginiana rootstock, a common commercial practice in the US. Hachiya performs well when grafted onto D. virginiana in Florida, but growth-ring cracking occurs on the fruit. It’s stated that Hachiya is a scanty bearer in south-eastern United States, but that may only be the case when grafted this way.
- NSW Agriculture – Persimmon growing in New South Wales, Agfact H3.1.17, 3rd edition 2003, L Ullio , District Horticulturist, Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Research Institute, Camden
- Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service – Texas Fruit and Nut Production: Persimmons By: Larry Stein, Monte Nesbitt, and Jim Kamas
- California Polytechnic State University – Urban Forest Ecosystems Institute, SelecTree: Tree Detail, HACHIYA PERSIMMON
- University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, Japanese Persimmon Cultivars in Florida, Ali Sarkhosh, Peter C. Andersen, and Dustin M. Huff
- University of Hawaii – Crop Knowledge Master, Fruits and Nuts, Persimmon
- Arizona Cooperative Extension – Backyard Gardener, Growing Persimmons – January 7, 2004
- University of California – UC Davis Fruit & Nut Research & Information Center, Persimmon Fact Sheet, Prepared by Anne M. Gillen 1995
- The Complete Book of Fruit Growing In Australia by Louis Glowinski