During a brisk walk the other afternoon, I made a point to stroll by the little persimmon tree on the corner. Sure enough, the ripe globes were in the midst of dropping to the ground. I wrapped my arm around the tree's modestly sized trunk and gave it a hearty pull. Only slightly did this have an effect on the branches above, but I kept at it and soon encouraged a few extra persimmons into my willing arms. Although the commercial
cultivars are prized for their size and durability, wild persimmons are special for the opposite reason. After a few frosty evenings they become sweet, though fragile, and are best eaten on the spot. If sampled before its narrow moment of ripeness, a persimmon can be an unlucky attempt at discovering the bliss offered by wild edibles. But, when the fruits are tender and almost so soft they squish in your hand, they are a treat beyond words. All matter of woodland creatures enjoy a perfectly ripe persimmon equally as much as the lucky passerby, such as myself.
Persimmons have a long history in this area. Indians used to mash the sweet pulp and spread it evenly over a peeled log to dry slowly in the sun. Afterwards, they had what was known as "persimmon leather" which proved to be highly stable, its stability increasing as smoke from cooking and fires additionally cured the hanging strips. The method of drying preserved the sweetness of the fruit, unlike cooking which tends to allow the astringent quality (unique to persimmons), to surface.
Like many wild gifts such as these, a ripe persimmon's moment is brief, yet the opportunity to sample one is worthy of keeping close tabs on the generous gift-giving trees.