December 9, 2011

Persimmons

About a year ago or so, our next door neighbor told us there was a persimmon tree in our woods. When we first went looking for it, it was surrounded by brush, shrubs, and smaller trees. We didn't do anything about it that year, but this year, I cleared out around it. Starting at the end of October, I was rewarded with a few persimmon fruits.


Ours is a native persimmon tree, Diospyros virginiana, commonly known as American persimmon. Smaller and seedier than the commercially grown Japanese persimmon, Diospyros kaki, they are nonetheless considered "best" by Joy of Cooking authors, Irma Rombauer and Marion Becker. So they say in their persimmon pudding recipe anyway. Hopefully that makes up for the extra work it takes to extract the pulp from them.

From the looks of things on the ground around the tree, persimmons are a great favorite of our local wildlife. Even without the competition, my chances of getting very many seemed slim, considering that it's a mature tree and all the persimmons are waaaaaay up there.


Dan brought out the extension ladder and managed to shake a few more out of the tree. I ran these through my Foley food mill, but much of the pulp clung to the seeds so that I didn't feel I was getting much. I froze what I could, and added a little more every couple of days. I learned to go persimmon gathering in the late afternoon, as there would be nothing but discarded seeds if I went in the morning.

According to Slow Food USA, the anglicized word “Persimmon” is derived from an Algonquin word which means "dried fruit". The seeds are sometimes roasted to make a beverage similar to coffee. Here in Appalachia, the dried seeds are said to be brewed to make beer, though I've never heard of anybody doing that. The pulp can be used a lot of ways, including breads, cakes, cookies, pies, puddings, muffins, ice cream, sherbets, butters, jams, jellies, and fruit leather. Persimmon pulp can be dehydrated, canned or frozen.

By the end of November I had nearly 4 cups of pulp the freezer. At the top of my list is a persimmon pie! More on that soon.

28 comments:

  1. I really like the Hachiya Persimmon, but can't grow them here (too cold). They are good in lots of things, but my favorite way to eat them is to put them in the freezer with the skin on, then when they are solid, peel them, slice them into slivers (like an apple), put them in a bowl and then pour undiluted (very important) limeade over top. The contrast between the sweet persimmon and the tart lime, along with the icy texture is wonderful in the summer (if there are any left from the winter before!!).

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  2. Neat! My husband loves persimmons, although I think we've only had the Asain variety. Apparently we can grow the trees here too. Maybe we'll try that one of these years!
    -Jaime

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  3. Lucky to have the persimmon tree near your home! I dream of living in a place surrounded by woods and to eat freshly harvested fruit, sounds impossbile for a person whose been living her whole life in a modern world xD

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  4. Laura, that sounds really good! I've never had anything but wild persimmons, though I've seen the domestic kind in the grocery store. Not sure if the commercial variety would grow around here but it might be something to look in to.

    Jaime, go for it! We planted most of our fruit trees our first autumn here (2 Decembers ago). They're really coming along.

    Mitchelle, aw, it only sounds impossible. :)

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  5. I've never tried persimmon, but sounds like you got a good batch, despite the competition!

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  6. All our persimmons have already fallen, but I did manage to get about nine pounds of pulp in the freezer! It's just waiting for the perfect recipe! I did make persimmon bread last year, which was good, but I was hoping to make something more Persimmon-y this year. Would LOVE to find out what you make with yours (so I could copy it!!!).

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  7. Lordy, I love persimmon pudding! Haven't had it in years. I may have to bug my sister-in-law for some pulp. The trees don't grow that well this far north.

    You are so lucky to have one on your place.

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  8. Stephanie, I'm thankful for every one I got. What I should have mentioned, is that persimmons aren't ready to eat until after a frost. Before that they're very astringent!

    Carolyn, 9 pounds! I'm impressed. I'm planning to make a pie (pudding in a crust) and will post the recipe if it turns out well.

    Benita, do you have a recipe to share? (hint, hint)

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  9. I've never tasted persimmon. I've seen them in the stores once or twice, in the city, but not around here.

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  10. Persimmon beer, eh? Ok. Methinks I spy a challenge!

    Looks like this old-timey recipe describes something more akin to wine than beer. Nothing is technically malted which usually qualifies something as beer. And there is no mashing (the process of pouring hot water over the subject at a certain temperature to convert starches to fermentable sugars through enzyme action). And all of the stuff being fermented is left in the fermentor until fermentaion is complete and then racked just like wine is usually done. http://www.fullsteam.ag/blog/2009/10/persimmon-beer/

    I just finished my first all-grain brew and my two three-gallon fermentors could take on a new batch of something. From my beginner's perspective, this recipe is accomplishing the following: the wheat middlings are adding the "breadlike" texture of beer and frothier longer lasting head. The persimmons are providing all of the fermentable sugars, hence the lack of mashing. The toasting isn't going to do a whole lot except darken the color of the beverage, probably down to about Yengling color or something. The entire process appears to lend itself to killing any wild yeast that may be present on the persimmons so some yeast would almost have to be added.

    The biggest unknown in the result of this beverage ought to come from the kind of yeast chosen to perform the fermentation. I think because of the wheat middlings the original brewers were aiming towards a result more like what most beer yeast produces ( %5 alcohol and lots of residual sugar). However, it is fruit and ought to taste good with the fruity esters produced from some good chardonnay yeast (and hitting 12% alcohol with a dryer taste). It'd be worth experimenting both ways.

    Anyone know where I can buy get a bushel of persimmons?

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  11. Man! I see those in the trees everywhere around me and never knew that was what they were... Ahhhh. Persimmons for next year. Thanks for enlightening me!

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  12. I'll say they are high in the tree. With any luck you'll have enough for a good pie'

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  13. I have never had persimmon's. Tell you the truth I have never heard of them, LOL. Would be a nice find. Please let us know what you make with them and how it tastes.

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  14. Now I'm craving Persimmon Pudding! Both my mom and my mother-in-law made persimmon pudding for the holidays of which I do have their recipe. I even have a great steamed pudding "pan" I purchased on sale several years ago. I think I better unwrap it and use it, however I'll have to purchase the persimmons. When we were at my sister's place in October there were hundreds of persimmons hanging on her tree but they weren't ready to harvest yet . . . darn!

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  15. when I was a kid my neighbor's house had a ton of persimmon trees in the back yard. We had no idea that they were edible as they were sour...they made really good projectiles for throwing at our brothers (funny both my friend & I were the only girls with 3 younger brothers). We climbed the trees and made "forts" in them. We also carved the persimmons into tiny jack-o-lanterns with sticks.

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  16. Interesting post, and if my memory serves me correct i tried Persimmon tea many years ago. I think it was at some health food store or someplace like that. Please let us know how yours turns out and how you decide to make it. Richard

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  17. reminds me of our big hazel bushes! I can see some nuts very high up, but can't reach them, and I couldn't put a ladder up against them... so I have to make do with the bits and pieces that blow down, which isn't all that much, even though we don't have squirrels... you really have a piece of eden, persimmons, grapes, pecans...!

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  18. I have the idea that it's a very valuable wildlife food because of the vitamin s
    content vitC and possibly vitA as well.

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  19. Nina, I'm not sure how far north they grow. I've seen the big Japanese ones in the grocery store too, but were more than I was willing to spend. I ought to try some though, to see if there's a difference in flavor.

    Andrew, go for it! Brewing is something I've never tried, but I've bookmarked your link. Seems like it would take some tinkering to get that one right!

    Halfhippie, oh yes, persimmons are great. There are lots of things you can do with them. A lovely natural fruit.

    Barb, too high! I've been looking at recipes and think I'll do just fine for a pie. :)

    J Smith, I'll do that. It's been years since I had persimmon pie, but I do remember that I liked it quite well.

    CaliforniaGrammy, care to share your recipe? Must be a good one. :)

    Renee, they are pretty puckery before a frost. Sounds like you girls found a good use for them though, LOL

    Richard, persimmon tea, Hmm, sounds like another must try. :)

    Bettina, you must have some bit hazel nut bushes! We do have quite a few fruits and nuts in place here. That makes me very happy. :)

    Quinn, I suspect your right, though the wildlife probably just loves them because they taste good!

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  20. my mom used to make persimmon bread with fruit cake mix in it, liked it better than fruit cake.

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  21. I have an entry from this summer in my notebook that says I should hunt down a couple Meader persimmon trees...thanks for the reminder. Are the trees you found growing in a partly shady location?

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  22. TL, that sounds pretty good. I think persimmon for a cake base would be wonderful. Wish I had more to experiment.

    Donna, me too! :)

    Mr. H, is a big old tree in the woods. It's actually reaching taller than the surrounding trees, so I wouldn't say it's completely shaded. The bottom portion is though, but most of the fruits seem to get at least some sun during the day. I'm nor familiar with Meader persimmons. Are they a more northerly variety? Seems like quite a few folks living farther north would really like to have a persimmon tree or two.

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  23. How lucky are you to have a wild persimmon tree nearby! That pie sounds yummy too!

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  24. I tried persimmons for the first time a few years ago..... Store bought (on sale at HEB) and they were really yummy..... Would love to be able to have them growing at home :)

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  25. Mary, if it hadn't been for our neighbor, it might have been years for us to find it, maybe never! That's how hidden in bush and brush it wasl.

    Crystal, they really seem to do well in the south. I'd be curious to try one of the Japanese types, just to see, but I'm happy at least for a wild one.

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  26. The ones we are thinking of try are Diospyros virginiana, American (Meader) Persimmon...so I guess they are the same as yours. They are hardy to zone 5 and self pollinating. I asked you about the shade because I have read that they are not very tolerant of shady conditions but yours and others I have seen through blogs seem to be grown in semi-shady locations.

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  27. Thank you for that! They probably are the same, though I had no idea of their range. Mine seems to get it's sun by being a bit taller than the surrounding trees; I can stand near the goat shed and see the persimmons on the branches, now that I know where too look. That would also account for why all the fruit is up so high! Funny, but we've never found anymore around, I would think there'd be plenty of saplings. All the shade probably solves that mystery.

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