Thursday, October 20, 2011

Persimmons: A Primer

You may already be acquainted with the Asian Persimmon.   Just to be confusing, Asian persimmons are the kind sold in American stores.  Here is a wonderful-but-sexual,-so-I-warned-you poem about persimmons and being Chinese.

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.

 so proud.

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, 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.


  1. So do we (not the same as the person above)!

  2. I say--wouldn't it be smashing to have a photo of a Crazy Face! Hrrumph. Hrrumph. I just happened upon this blog as I was browsing--I have no relation whatsever to the above persons. (How many votes did you say you needed?)

  3. i would NEVER want to embarrass someone by ADDING A COMMENT (#4) that would pressssssure them into having a silly picture posted...

  4. I'd love to see the picture, also as I was reading this I was thinking I'd love to get my hands on enough of them to brew a beer with.

  5. If I knew how to spell in english I would post a picture of the crazy face

  6. S'il vous plait--nous voulons voir la photo drole!

  7. Si! Vogliamo vedere la foto divertenti!

  8. 我们希望看到的搞笑照片

  9. Hmm . . . looks like ten to me!

  10. 1. The string of comments made me laugh. I take it this is your aunt?
    2. I LOVE that hat.
    3. I love that you have a persimmon tree. I have never seen a persimmon outside of Korea.
    4. Is that your handwriting on those gift bags of cookies? If so, it has changed since our Africa days. :~) I still have a couple notes from you from high school tucked in my Bible.
    5. I'm glad you blog.

  11. 1. I can't say for certain. But I'm nearly positive only my aunt is so clever.
    2. Lexi made the hat. Is she the best?!
    3. Mm, persimmons.
    4. Yes, my handwriting. I do a little writing/arting work for the restaurant where I keep a few weekend shifts. My writing is always evolving.
    5. Thank you! Just sending a little "me" out into the vast internet feels strange - it only feels good when it means something to people.

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  13. Thanks for your post and photos! We have a very similar persimmon tree here on our fence line in (Shenandoah Valley) Virginia! Still looking for a way to diminish the tannin in a persimmon jam. I know I need to wait until the fruit falls from the tree...but still, I think regardless of waiting patiently, the tannin still comes thru from the residual skin/peel that sneaks they the sieve.. Especially, thanks for the photo of your persimmons! I now know the variety of our tree!

  14. I am so happy to find someone as obsessed with and delighted by simmons as I am! Here in the area of Nashville, Tennessee, the persimmons have already begun to fall -- very early (Late Sep. and early Oct.). This year looks like a bumper crop. I become an animal, browsing through the ripe ones on the ground for just a perfect two or three to eat. Oh, the gorgeous colors and delicious frangrance. I hold the calyx and bite the whole fruit into my mouth. Oh, heaven.


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