Quite by accident I discovered a persimmon tree Tuesday afternoon.
I was in a hurry and could only pick up a handful of the soft, ripe “sugar plums” to take home. It’s been years since I tasted a persimmon, and when I did I was transported back to my youth–my childhood yard was filled with persimmon trees.
It was a treacherous way to grow up, and I mean that in the most whimsical and Southern way possible; our autumns were spent tiptoeing our way through a sweet minefield of squishy fruit and the accompanying wasps. Yes, we’d eat them, and yes, we’d trick our Colorado cousins with offers of the green, mouth-puckering unripe ‘simmons. It was an overall win, in spite of the mess they made.
My parents selected a particularly perilous spot to build a house. As I’ve said, there was a persimmon grove on one side. On the other side, right by the clothesline (maybe even as one anchor for the clothesline) was a honey locust tree.
Here is a photo of a honey locust tree trunk I borrowed from Wikipedia:
These thorns are up to 7 inches long and regularly fall to the ground.
My siblings and I grew up to be cautious people who never run around barefoot in unknown territory.
Back to the persimmons.
This morning I went prepared to collect fruit. I knew the winds of the previous day would work in my favor, and I wasn’t wrong. I picked up 5 pounds of persimmons in just a few minutes.
If you’ve never tasted a persimmon, they’re the fruit of a native southern American tree. Each one is about the size of a walnut. They taste sort of like a juicy date with caramel overtones–very delicious. You have to wait until they’re completely ripe to eat them or they are terrifically astringent. One taste of an unripe persimmon and you will think your mouth is going to be in a permanent state of pucker. If there is any firmness about the fruit, leave it be.
Most of the ones that have fallen to the ground are going to be ripe, unless it was dislodged prematurely by a storm or a critter. Birds love them, as do many other wild creatures.
Persimmons have large, shiny, brown seeds. I’ve read they can be roasted and used as a coffee substitute, but I’ve never tried that. I’ve also heard they were used during the Civil War as buttons. Never tried that, either, but I’m intrigued.
I’ll report later on what I make with my persimmon haul. I have a friend with a family persimmon pudding recipe I want to try.