The American Persimmon

Published 9:21 am Wednesday, September 19, 2018

In autumn 2017 a friend introduced me to the American or Eastern Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana L.)

My excitement along with the many thoughts of new and unique food opportunities for this unique orange-yellow colored fruit that somewhat resembled a globose shaped plum were swiftly dashed after the first apprehensive bite.

In all fairness to my friend, I was warned of the persimmon’s STRONG astringent skin and pulp. However its attractive looks and sweet scent I could not resist. The food explorer in me was hooked and so I had to try it for myself. Curiously the juice from the first bite into a persimmon is very sweet with a pleasant taste, then it bites back! After recovering from what I can only describe as my tongue being rung inside out and every ounce of saliva instantaneously evaporating from my gums, I resolved myself to cracking the code of the persimmon.

I thought to myself that surely back in the day our great-grandparents made good use of this fruit. Somewhere in someone’s family there must be some recipes that are not only palatable but delicious also.

A few months into the New Year I found what I was searching for. While watching Chef Vivian Howard cook with Chef Bob Smith, he shared his family’s recipe for Persimmon pudding. I was fortunate that I had taped the show and I was able to diligently take notes on the recipe and kept it safe until persimmon season was upon us once again. With much doubt in regards to a baked success my friend graciously supplied the persimmons fresh from her tree and a very delicious persimmon pudding was made.

Our wild harvested baked delight just added to my enthusiasm and respect for past generations and their lost recipes that most of the time utilized native fruits and vegetables. They did not shop at the grocery market and lived off the land and what nature provided them. Survival depended on their ability to “do for themselves.”

I continue to bring up the persimmon in conversation when speaking with someone whom I suspect may have some knowledge on the topic to share. Surprisingly the consensus seems to be mostly negative in regards to utilizing it as a food item. However some entertaining folklore was shared also.

Some people believed and still do today that the persimmon seed will foretell the severity of the impending winter in the demographic area of which the seed originated. The seed when sliced in half, revels either the shape of a spoon, fork or knife. Curiously, it does! I tried it with three seeds. Hold on to your snow shovels folks, three out of the three seeds displayed spoons. Spoons represent lots of heavy snow, fork=mild winter and knives=very cold icy winter with cutting winds.

If you have some persimmon recipes or lore to share, I would love to hear it.

Dawn Conrad can be reached at conrad. gardenmuse@gmail. comor gardenmuse.