Native Persimmons

by Linda Wiggen Kraft

The old native persimmon tree (diospyros virginiana) in my back yard was large and full of thousands of one-inch diameter persimmons the first year we moved in 20 years ago. Every year since then, the tree has faithfully shared its apricot flavored peach colored fruits, only to leave me bewildered about what to do with all the bounty of fully ripe fruit that falls to the ground, each one only lasting for a day. There is no way to pick the fruit, so waiting for the ripe fruit to drop is the only way to gather and eat them.

Eating the fruit picked off the ground is an in-the-moment delight, but there seemed to be no way to keep up with the hundreds that rain down daily for a few weeks during the heavy ripening time. Three almond sized seeds are in each fruit. The pulp and skin are sweet and soft and need to be separated from the seeds. In your mouth this is an easy task, but not so easy when wanting to create a pulp, the only way to save the fruit. I didn’t know how I could do that, since each day there are so many fruits that would not be good the next day. I didn’t have the time for daily persimmon pulp making.

It was only recently when someone mentioned how easy it is to freeze peaches that a light bulb went off in my head. I could collect persimmons daily, put them in a freezer bag and freeze them until I had the time to create the pulp, which is a time consuming job. Why hadn’t I thought of this before?

So this year, near the end of the persimmon season, I made my first batch of pulp. I collected daily bags of persimmons and put them in the freezer. After a few days worth of fruit, I took the frozen ones and let them thaw. They were mushy from the freezing, which made them easier to strain. Using a twelve inch strainer and wooden spoon, I pushed the skin and fruit into a bowl. I got about half a cup from twenty-five persimmons. I spooned some on chocolate sorbet and enjoyed the subtle sweet taste.
This Thanksgiving I will be using frozen pulp, trying recipes for persimmon pudding and persimmon bread. The website persimmonpudding.com has over twenty-five recipes for persimmon pudding. James Beard has a persimmon bread recipe that sounds delicious.

I was lucky enough to have a mature fruit bearing native persimmon growing in my new home decades ago. It appears to be self-pollinating, but maybe there is a male nearby. Finally I will enjoy the fruits of this easy tree at times other than ripening time. Every home landscape and public green space should have these easy care drought tolerant natives that have beautiful deep etched bark, look good in the landscape, are larval plants for luna moths, and provide delicious sweet fruit that feeds people and wildlife.

Linda Wiggen Kraft is a landscape designer, mandala artist, photographer and meditation teacher. To see her persimmons, pulp making, recipes and other work visit her blog: www.CreativityForTheSoul.com/blog. Contact her at 314 504-4266.
Visit Linda’s booth at the Healthy Planet Expo!