MISSOURI GIRL EATS WEEDS
Wed, 11/18/2020 - 1:02pm admin
Ann J. Hines, PhD
According to the persimmons, we are going to have snow this winter! My kids certainly hope this is the case. About this time every year, local conversations inevitably include references to persimmons—if they’re ripe, who has found a big crop, and what the seeds forecast about the impending winter weather. Local folklore holds that if the cotyledon inside the seed resembles a spoon, we should expect plentiful snow. If a knife, prepare for an icy and windy winter. If a fork, it will be mild. Like the color ratio on wooly bear caterpillars, persimmon predictions are at least fun, if not particularly scientific.
Although the rule of thumb is that the fruits ripen after a frost, I find persimmon trees ripen whenever they please. Start checking them in late September and keep a close eye out when the leaves have fallen in October. Many can be found well into November if the deer don’t beat you to it. One of my youngsters generally climbs up the tree and shakes it into an outspread bedsheet. The non-ripe ones will ripen soon—try putting them in a brown paper sack; I’ve heard an apple speeds the process, but I’ve yet to try this. We’ve also frozen them to simulate a frost, with mixed results. Our best success is just to let them sit on the counter until they’re ripe. If you’re new to this Missouri favorite fruit, ask a local to take you to their persimmon grove. When ready to eat, the fruits will be dark and very soft, and notably translucent. If not, you will get a pronounced astringent feeling in your mouth—the trademark pucker of an unripened persimmon! So if your local friend tries to trick you, forewarned is forearmed. You can thank me later.
When you find a very soft, translucent one, just pop it in your mouth. Work the fruit off the seeds with your tongue and spit out the several seeds. It’s like candy! Containing vitamins and minerals, most notably vitamin C and beta-carotene, they are much healthier than any typical candy.
As compared to their cultivated counterparts found in the store, they are significantly smaller and mostly seed. But Missouri foragers think they are well-worth the effort. They are delicious dehydrated, and the seeds pop out easily once dry. Many make a pudding with the seeded fruits. I’ve also seen a persimmon cheesecake. Persimmon Pinwheel cookies are a favorite childhood memory of mine. Using my great-grandmother’s sugar cookie recipe, my mother rolled out the dough, spread on the persimmon paste, rolled it up, sliced and baked them. They are incomparable! Will persimmons be on your Thanksgiving table?