If you mention picking persimmons to the average person, they will give you an odd look and ask what the heck a persimmon is. However, the outdoorsy people -- the hunters and foragers and homesteaders – will know exactly what you are talking about. Wild Persimmons are something special, and once you’ve found a spot where a tree is, you’ll visit it regularly to beat all the wildlife to the deliciously sweet fruits.
They look somewhat like an orange plum (hence one of the terms it is referenced by is Sugar Plum), and grow on shrubby trees throughout much of the United States. Persimmons are native to North America, rich in history, and is something that was widely used in Native American culture and early civilization. Although many stories and tales revolve around the persimmon, one of the most common folklores is how the persimmon can predict what kind of winter is in store for us. Cut one open and split the seed, and a tiny spoon, fork or knife will be revealed. A knife means an icy winter, the spoon means heavy snow and the fork forecast predicts a mild winter. Although I’m not sure how accurate this is, it’s something that’s always fun to show those who are unfamiliar with the fruit.
The fruits ripen in the Fall, and are best after the first frost. As they ripen, the skin will become wrinkled and the texture of the fruit will become soft. Shaking the tree is one of the easiest ways to identify which fruits are ripe enough to eat, as eating the unripe ones isn’t a pleasant experience. I like to pick up any of the fruit that has fallen off the tree, as long as the skin hasn’t been split or infested with bugs; my daughter enjoys helping me search for the fruit in the tall grass and adding them one by one to the bucket. Wildlife also loves this sweet fruit, so if you are a hunter, it’s always good to hunt near a persimmon tree.
Once you have eaten your fill of wild persimmons and filled whatever buckets you bring, the next step is to preserve them. This can be done in a variety of ways, but the easiest way is to freeze them. Persimmons freeze very well, so I tend to pick as much fruit as possible to store away for the year.
To prepare your fruit for the freezer, rinse off the skin of the fruit and lightly pat dry. This is a delicate process as the fruit can be very soft. I like to put the persimmons in a strainer and pour water over them, then leave them to drip dry for a bit. Then, you’ll want to remove the stem. This is extremely easy as it will simply pull right off the fruit. I then transfer the whole fruit to a bag and vacuum seal it. You can simply put it in a container or freezer bag as well.
When you are ready to use your fruit (if you didn’t freeze your fruit and are going to use fresh fruit right away, skip to this step after rinsing), Simply empty your thawed fruit into a mesh strainer and use the back of a spoon to push the pulp through. The skin and seeds will be left in the strainer and the pulp will be easily scraped into a bowl.
Persimmons can be eaten plain, dried, or cooked, and there is a never-ending list of ways to prepare them if you were to do a search on Pinterest. Sauces, bread, muffins, pudding, cookies…the list goes on. The first recipe I made with them was a batch of “Persimmon Cookies” and they turned out delicious!
Beka Garris (@bekagarris) was born and raised in NNJ and hunting and fishing was a huge part of her life even as a kid. She now resides in SE Ohio with her husband and three-year-old daughter. Her hobbies include hunting, fishing, gardening, and cooking. She is currently pursuing freelance writing.