It’s beginning to be persimmon season in Arkansas. Persimmons are native to China where they’ve been cultivated for centuries. They have, in my opinion, all too frequently been misunderstood. They’ve gotten a bad rap, y’all. Yes, it is true that trying to eat an unripe persimmon will make you pucker up with a real capital P. But if you are patient and wait until they are fully ripe, you’ll be rewarded with a really sweet golden orb of deliciousness.
This holds true for native American persimmons which are astringent. They are much smaller than the Fuyu or Hachiya varieties often found in supermarkets. While the Hachiya is astringent, the Fuyu is considered to be non-astringent and can be eaten while still firm. It’s somewhat like eating a crisp apple.
“Astringent persimmons are best picked and ripened for a few days until soft and nearly mushy before they are sweet enough to eat. They are the sweetest: richer and juicier than the non-astringents. Astringents are sweet like maple syrup when ripe, and quite interesting as a dried delicacy. Non-astringents are a more mellow sweet like cantaloupe or sugarcane.” (Source: Ask the Green Genie.)
There are over 200 known species of persimmons, though there is documentation of over 1000 actual varieties.
And what you’ve probably heard is that you must wait until the first frost before harvesting. That’s a myth that needs to be cleared up. Persimmons ripen at different times even on the same tree. Different varieties ripen in different ways as well. Yes, it is true that they may be a little sweeter after the first frost, but by the time that occurs in my area, a large portion of the crop will have already fallen or been eaten by critters.
And that critter would not be me. Squirrels, birds especially Cedar Waxwings, and even coyotes love persimmons.
You probably can get a larger harvest after the first frost, but you can pick them up from the ground every day or so as they fall and as long as they are clean. Since persimmons will release easily from the tree when fully ripe, I take a sheet to the tree and give the branches I can reach a good shake. The sheet will catch the fruit and make your gathering them a snap.
Pop them in the freezer if you don’t have time to work them right then. They’ll be ready for you when you do have time.
Did you know that a persimmon is really a true berry? Just how can that be?
The botanical definition of a berry is a fleshy fruit produced from a single ovary. That means that any small edible fruit, that doesn’t have a stone or pit such as a peach, although it may have lots of seeds, is considered to be a “true berry.”
My friend, James Moore of Busvlogger fame, did a vlog last year for OnlyinArk.com where he explored the tradition of forecasting the winter weather by looking at the kernel of the persimmon seed. Check that out HERE.
James Beard created a recipe for persimmon bread for his book Beard on Bread. I’ve adapted that recipe somewhat to make these muffins and can highly recommend you give them a try. The hardest part of any persimmon recipe is harvesting the pulp. But once that’s done, you’ll be so glad you went to the trouble. There are several instructional videos available on You Tube if you need to find out how to do that.