Thursday, September 18, 2008
I've been craving the rich, gooey pulp of persimmons ever since I whined about all the "deceptively ripe-looking" ones in my picture post last Sunday. (Wild American persimmons are somewhat different from the Asian persimmons you find in the grocery store. If you are not familiar with them, you can read about them here.) Wild persimmons turn color and look tempting in early fall, but you'll get a nasty surprise if you bite into one. The flesh, especially right next to the skin, is so tannic it will pucker your mouth. If you eat more than a bite or two it will make you ill. It doesn't become fit to eat until it's more or less rotted, or after a freeze softens it. Then it becomes luscious and sweet as candy.
When I was out walking on Wednesday--in the big park where there are more critters than people--I kept coming across little piles of scat that were full of persimmon seeds. I don't know what sort of beastie left it there, since I'm not skilled at the art of scat reading. It might have been a skunk or a raccoon, or even a fox. Whatever it was, it had found some edible persimmons and I figured I could find some, too.
It didn't take me long to find a tree that had dropped a lot fruit. Most of it was unripe, and the pieces that were sufficiently decayed were generally too dirty to eat. I did manage to find a small handful of good ones, though, and I ate them right there, leaning up against the tree that produced them.
The skins were still treacherous with tannin. I split the fruit open from the stem and turned out the halves like an orange to expose the tasty part. I dug out the seeds with my fingers so I could enjoy the velvety pulp without having to spit them out. (I'm willing to follow shit to find food, but spitting just seems like bad manners, even out in the woods.)
Those few bites of persimmon tasted so good I smiled. I said a silent thanks to the mother persimmon tree, and to the filthy varmint who led me to her.
Photo from Vanderbilt University Bioimages page.