Persimmons Part of Autumn’s Bounty

persimmons
Indiana persimmons
Wild Indiana Persimmons, Photo by author

When people think of dessert and Thanksgiving, most probably think of pumpkin pie. However, if you are lucky enough to have persimmon pudding available, you are in for a special treat.
For many people, persimmon pudding is as much of the holiday traditional table fare as turkey and pies. However, many younger folks probably don’t know what a persimmon is let alone ever eaten one.

Morel mushroom hunting is part of the spring for many outdoors people, and persimmon and nut gathering is part of fall activities.

Persimmons are one of the most popular items harvested in the fall, although other fruits of interest include the pawpaw, wild grape, elderberry, and wild cherry. These can be picked while on a fall hunting trip for squirrels or a fishing trip, or they can be hunted and picked on any fall outing.

Many people have their favorite persimmon tree grove where they gather their fruit. However, one advantage the pumpkin has over the persimmon is the pumpkin in much more readily available, including at the supermarket.

Persimmons are a great source of vitamins A and C as well as of potassium and fiber, and apparently were an Oriental tree and imported to this country many years ago. Animals, including possums which love them, have helped spread the seeds in many areas.

The persimmon tree has gray, fissured bark. Once you learn the tree, they are easy to identify.

Persimmons should be picked from the ground and not the tree. If picked from the tree, they may be what we always have called “puckery”. One not fully ripe will leave the inside of your mouth with an awful taste and make the inside feel as though it puckers.

Some people shake the persimmons from smaller limbs, but there is a danger of getting some puckery ones included in your picking.

How can you determine when to eat a persimmon? One internet website offered the following thoughts: Persimmons are ready in the fall from September to the end of the year, depending on location and weather.

There are two varieties of persimmons. The astringent fruit is eaten when it has become jelly-soft. The nonastringent fruit, which is gaining in popularity, is eaten while still firm. The astringent are the type we usually find growing wild in the Midwest.

A tip on a website for dealing quickly with fruit not fully ripe is to place the fruit in the freezer overnight. Remove the fruit from the freezer and allow the cold-ripened fruit to thaw.
Persimmons can be used to make wine. To process them is easy. You just look them over in the kitchen. Wash them off and make sure they are clean. Then squash and drop skins, seeds and all into the container where you make your wine.

However if you plan to use them to make persimmon pudding, cookies or pies or to save and freeze for later, much more work is involved. The biggest problem is getting out the seeds. They are sizable, but difficult to easily remove.

The skins and stems also must be separated. They need to be run through a colander or Victoria strainer, and that is a work of love, but one well worth doing. I love persimmon pudding. It is always a part of Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.

The recipe my family has always followed calls for the pudding to be baked in a pan and the final product is a similar consistency of brownies.

There are a number of other recipes. My mother-in-law always made a pudding that was less like a cake and more like a soft pudding to be eaten with a spoon. Either way it is delicious.
If you want to enjoy eating a few raw persimmons while on a hike or baking a tasty pudding, this is a good year to give them a try.

Phil Junker
Phil Junker has been writing about and photographing the outdoors he loves for more than 50 years. While he writes about fishing, hunting and shooting sports, he also covers everything from morel mushroom picking, hiking, camping, and boating to eagle watching. He says if it’s in the outdoors, it’s fair game for column material. Junker is a member of the Hoosier Outdoor Writers Association and Kentucky Outdoor Press Association; He is a former member of the Great Lakes Outdoor Writers, the Southeast Outdoor Press Association, Hoosier Outdoor Writers, and the Florida Outdoor Press Association. He is a past president of both the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers and the Hoosier Outdoor Writers. He and his wife, Phyllis, plus rescue dog terrier, Missy, live in Cloverdale although they spend part of the year in their fish camp home on Lake Rosalie near Lake Wales in Florida.

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