When my family moved here years ago, we had no idea what persimmons were. We still don’t. Obviously, they are a fruit and I can say without a doubt that goats enjoy them immensely. Our first experience was less than exciting, however. Here’s what I’ve since learned about persimmons.
When I discovered the 2 persimmon trees on our wooded acreage, it was early fall. I discovered them because persimmon trees drop their leaves a little earlier than most of the surrounding trees. This left the small orange orbs exposed to the naked eye. The sight of a leafless persimmon tree festooned with pumpkin-colored globes in the fall is actually quite pretty. Naturally, I plucked one down and sank my teeth into it.
Persimmons should never be eaten in the early fall. Nope, not a good plan. After sputtering and spitting that one out, I returned home with several in my pocket, to do some research. Native Americans informed early settlers that putchamin, pasiminan, or pessamin, depending on the dialect of the tribe, should not be eaten before the first frost. The settlers, like many people today, believe the frost is what improves the flavor. In truth, persimmons just take a long time to ripen and frost itself isn’t a factor at all.
When To Pick
Persimmons should remain on the tree until they become soft and squishy, almost to the point of becoming mushy. This is often late October in Illinois, perhaps earlier or later in your part of the country. The color will change to a darker orangish-red. If the fruit feels firm and resists being plucked from the tree, it is not ready. Once they soften, the inner flesh becomes quite sweet.
In order to eat persimmons fresh, you have to be dedicated. First, they have to be peeled. The skins do come off easily but since the fruit needs to be soft in order to enjoy it, the task can be challenging. Next, the small fruits are about the size of a golf ball. Each fruit has 5 to 6 seeds, each comparable in size to a pumpkin seed. This does not leave a lot of room for the actual edible fleshy part. However, what you do get is a unique flavor, something like a sweet mango. The texture is similar to a ripe tomato.
Cooking with Persimmons
The trick to cooking with persimmons is quantity. Once I learned to tell when they ripe, I picked as many as I could reach. This came to 2 pounds. After a couple of hours of peeling and seeding persimmons, I scarcely had 1 full cup of usable fruit mash. Fortunately, many of the recipes I had to choose from only required 1 cup.
Persimmons have a mild taste that does not stand out when cooked. Nearly all the baked recipes – cookies, breads, muffins – that I found, called for cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. The bread was good but not especially remarkable when compared to other breads such as zucchini bread or banana nut bread.
I did find recipes for chutneys, puddings and pies but those will have to wait until next year’s crop is ready to harvest.
Persimmon Trees Make a Wonderful Addition to the Landscape or Home Orchard
Sources: Personal Experience