When it comes to harvesting bounty from backyard fruit trees for holiday feasts, few people think of serving exotic fruits. But for members of the California Rare Fruit Growers, the more unusual a fruit, the more likely they are to grow it in their gardens and serve it for dinner. And if they do deign to grow “common” apple and orange trees in their backyards, they often graft seven or eight varieties onto a single tree to make the challenge a little more sporting. Or they will grow the tree from a seed, waiting seven or more years for it to bear. But according to Lomita resident Ken Ueda, who harvested a bumper crop of 500 to 600 Jiro persimmons and a respectable amount of star fruit for his Thanksgiving table this year, growing these exotic fruits actually is easy. In fact, Ueda treats them no differently than he treats his orange trees. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWhicker: Clemson demonstrates that it’s tough to knock out the champOn Monday, he shared growing secrets, along with an explanation of the two distinct groups of persimmons – the native American persimmon and the Japanese, or Oriental, persimmon. The fruit on the native varieties tends to be smaller, seedier and more astringent, until the fruit is very soft and ripe. Oriental persimmons, such as Ueda’s Jiro (similar to Fuyu), were introduced into the U.S. about 100 years ago and many growers consider this fruit superior to the native persimmons. Oriental persimmons are divided into two categories – astringent and nonastringent. The astringent should be completely soft before being eaten or your mouth will pucker in a hurry. The nonastringent, such as the Jiro, are firmer and can be eaten prior to softening. In fact, Ueda prefers eating them at the same consistency as an apple. That’s how Jiro persimmons are enjoyed in Hawaii, where it is the preferred persimmon. Ueda planted his now 25-foot-tall, semi-dwarf tree 25 years ago. The first year he had about 50 persimmons, but since then it has averaged 300 fruits annually and he predicts this year’s total production will hit 600. Ueda attributes the abundant persimmon crop to the chilling dip in temperature we had earlier this year. The huge crop definitely wasn’t the result of any special fertilizer program, he insists. He feeds his persimmon tree only once a year, in spring, using Bandini’s Citrus and Avocado Food. The exact date he fertilizers his persimmon – as well as his orange, lemon, pummelo and other more exotic trees – depends on when the persimmons have set fruit the size of a pea. That’s usually in March or April, depending on the weather. Ueda’s rule of thumb is to feed the tree 1 pound of plant food per inch of diameter of the tree’s trunk. He advises watering the fertilizer in well, but says not to worry if all the crystals aren’t absorbed into the soil. They will be dissolved with subsequent watering. Ueda’s Jiro persimmons resemble flat, orange tomatoes and taste similar to apples with a hint of cinnamon. They are known as Asian Apples. Along with persimmon on his Thanksgiving menu, Ueda also offered star fruit from his carambola tree, native to Sri Lanka, India and Indonesia. In 1989, his sister gave him the seed, which he was able to grow despite the fact that carambola seed viability lasts only a few days. After growing the seed in a pot for three years, he transplanted the young tree into the ground. It has been producing ever since, he said, and every year the fruit gets larger and more abundant. The star fruit are a yellowish green, about 4 to 5 inches long, with five “points” on the sides. When they are cut horizontally, they are perfect five-pointed (sometimes six-pointed or seven-pointed) stars. Eaten raw, star fruits are crunchy with a slightly tart, sweet taste reminiscent of pears and apples. Ueda says he plans to propagate carambola trees for a few friends, using a method called air layering in which he cuts the bark away in a 1/2-inch ring on a 1/2-inch thick branch. Then he puts a rooting hormone on the exposed area and covers it with wet sphagnum moss and wraps it tightly with plastic, securing the ends with twist ties so no air can reach the area and it will stay moist. Within six months, roots will appear and Ueda can cut the branch just below the rooted ring and plant it in the ground to grow into a tree. [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!