Persimmons, an autumn treat

Yesterday I wandered down the road to visit my neighbor.  Her persimmon trees were loaded with fruits begging to be picked.  She has both native and Japanese or Oriental persimmons. I plucked a soft, mauve-rose native fruit, about one-inch in diameter, and popped it in my mouth. Delicious!  While I had to spit out the four flat black seeds, the pulp was just the right amount of sweetness. It is said these persimmons are better after frost, but the one I ate was just right.

Native persimmons (diosperos virginiana) grow from Long Island and Pennsylvania south to Florida and west to eastern Kansas and Texas.  The word persimmon comes from an Algonquian word for the tree.

Since the fruits are so soft, they are not sold commercially.   Now is the time to go out in the woods or hedgerows looking for persimmon trees with fruit.  Foragers are encouraged to find a tree, spread a sheet underneath, and shake the tree.  Really ripe fruits will fall.  I’m able to reach up to the lower branches of this 25-30 foot tree to harvest the small fruits.  Of course, I can only harvest low-hanging fruit before the deer have discovered these treats.  Other animals that enjoy persimmons, native or Japanese, include opossums, skunks, and birds.

The Japanese persimmon trees (diosperos kaki) were loaded with three- and four-inch diameter, orange fruits, not quite ready to eat, but they were weighing the branches down to the ground.  The raccoons have figured out how to get into the fenced orchard and have been enjoying eating this feast already.  I picked a bagful of unripe persimmons, expecting to finish their ripening process in a bag on my kitchen counter.  Japanese persimmons travel pretty well and will appear soon for a short time in grocery stores. I wonder how they’ll be priced. I found my sweet treasures for free!

When the flesh of the Japanese persimmon is ripe, it will give to slight pressure, like checking a pear for ripeness.  One can cut the persimmon into quarters and scoop out the pulp or eat it directly, leaving the leathery skin to add to your compost.  It can also be added to puddings, ice cream mix, and many other culinary delights.  First citizens used the native persimmons in breads and puddings.