Our persimmons grow in a tree planted by the original owner of our house, who kept a wonderful organic garden that still sprouts ghost tomatoes and watermelons in places where we never dropped seeds. [note to self: Arrange for delicious fruit to haunt the people who come after me when I'm gone. I think this is a beautiful legacy.]
Our tree is diospyrus virginiana, which is the fancy name for the persimmon native to the Americas. Although it's supposed to be a winter fruit, ours always ripen in October. I would like to brag about this the way that parents do when their children learn to walk or use the toilet at an early age. I would like to have a sticker for the back of my rabbit: My persimmon tree is an early bloomer at Carolina Backyard Farm.
The tree is tall and very narrow, and Abe sometimes will climb it to shake the fruit down. I nag him not to, because the American persimmon is astringent and not-that-delicious until it falls from the tree unaided. Also, we don't have health insurance, so if he falls, his broken leg will have to go unaided too.
When the fruit is ready, it's very soft, apricot-y and finally sweet. I collect the fruits from the ground, pick out the leaves and dirt, and smash them in a bowl. The texture is kind of slimy; the color is bright, red-orange. Our persimmons have big, black seeds, so I pick those out too. Ripe persimmons don't keep well, so I try to use them quickly or freeze for later. The pulp makes delicious cookies or persimmon pudding, if you're a traditionalist. I have a recipe from my aunt's mother that's completely charming, written in beautiful cursive, full of her baking "tricks," and slightly terrifying to me, since her final word on it is "GOOD LUCK!" in all capital letters with an exclamation mark.
I basically learned everything I know about persimmons from persimmonpudding.com, which is a fantastic resource if you're interested in foraging the fruit or old family recipes for persimmons. (I just used other links so you'd think I'm well-read. On wikipedia... so never mind.) My favorite recipe is Lena Porter's, but I love to read some of the really old recipes there. Last year, we must have made at least 12 batches of cookies at Christmas.
don't worry, you're not too late to start your Christmas baking. this is a photo from last year.
You'll all have to take my word for it that there really are persimmon cookies in those bags (or Naomi's, since she ate them), because my mom might object if I posted the other picture I have of last year's persimmon cookies. She's in it, and making a Crazy Face. Should we petition her for permission to put it up by posting at least 10 comments here? I think we should. As a bonus, she will feel less lonely reading my blog, knowing there are ten other people lurking around (or at least one person who cares enough to develop with a very close relationship with their "post comment" button).
This year, the chickens have discovered the persimmons, and they've been greedy. I'm hoping to rescue enough for Abe to brew some persimmon beer.