(Originally published Fall, 2010) While sitting at the breakfast table as a young girl, I could look out the window this time of year and watch the squirrels scamper like mad up and down the trees just across the fence line along our garden. They were scrambling to see who could harvest and store the highest number of Oklahoma native persimmons, the bright orange to dark amber fruits tempting them to work extra hard. Even by squirrel standards. Occasionally, I would wander outside, cross the fence and collect a few of the fruits I knew for sure were ripe, but at that age it was a guessing game for me.
Sometimes I would choose them at a stage too firm and orange (green) and suffer the consequences of a horrible experience – something like all the moisture being sucked out of my mouth, with no way to quench the thirst! But the ripe persimmons…ah, those were nice. And still are.
My father brought some to our Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday and luckily not all of them got eaten. I have them now and I thought I would share a few basic pieces of information in case you are outside and see them in a tree somewhere. They are worth your harvesting time.
First, you need to make sure and pick them off the tree. They are rarely edible once they’ve fallen to the ground. Look for fruit that is still holding its shape well, but the skin has begun to ever-so-slightly wrinkle. You CAN pick them green and store them in a refrigerated container. I’ve read they will last quite well, but the humidity needs to be fairly high which might not work for other things in in your fridge.
If you wish to cook with them, there are some very nice recipes found online for persimmon bread, “butter,” kimchi, pudding, cheesecake, ice cream and even fudge. In other words, a whole buncha possibilities! I also think, however, they are nice just sitting on a plate looking lovely. Eating a persimmon “naked” tastes like a mix between a date, a mango, and sweetened cooked butternut squash. They have a pulp consistency of a very ripe apricot. I think pureeing the pulp and spreading it on a slice of nutty, med-soft white cheese (perhaps a Gruyere) would be a great snack. Mmm.
I featured a photo on our October 24th Silent Sunday post, so the picking season can go on for quite some time. We are actually quite lucky to have them here as Oklahoma borders the far west edge of where they are generally found in the U.S. Grocery stores across the country carry a few other varieties, however, and some of them are a beautiful yellow color.
Next time you are on a nature walk during an Oklahoma fall day, be sure to look up into the tree branches. You may get lucky and bring home something nice for your family and have fun learning about the treasures of our great state while you do. Enjoy!