Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Pucker up, it's persimmon time in Tennessee!

While driving to church yesterday morning, I spotted my first sign that fall was here. Lying in the middle of the road was an old familiar sight. Dozens of little orange berries, some smashed, some round and waiting to be run over. When I was a kid growing up here in East, TN, persimmons brought both pleasure and aggravation to my life.

According to Wikipedia, the American Persimmon tree grows mainly in the Southeastern United States. Its ranges from New England to Florida, and west to Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. The tree grows wild but has been cultivated for its fruit and wood since prehistoric times by Native Americans.

I know that persimmon trees can be found in nearly every yard here in Knox County. In my own yard, I have only male persimmon trees, which do not bear any fruit. My parents, however, have female persimmon trees in their yard. My, the memories those things hold for me. From my earliest recollections, folks have been tricking younger kids into sampling green persimmons. I can remember my cousin Danny saying; “Oh, Tug, these persimmons are delicious, you’ve got to try one!” Then he held one up to his mouth and pretended to take a bite and acted like it was the best thing he had ever tasted in his life. Of course I, not wanting to look stupid in front of my hero cousin, took a big bite. If you have never bitten into a green persimmon before, you don’t know what you are missing. Or rather I should say you don’t want to know what you are missing! It takes no more than one bite into one to turn your mouth completely inside out. It has the similar effect of biting into a lemon, only worse! The first thing you want to do after trying one is to stick your tongue out and start slapping it. That is hard to do because your lips are now drawn into a frozen pucker, making this nearly impossible.

I can’t even tell you the number of folks that I played the above trick on. I know I did it to my younger sister, brother, and cousin Brad. Of course I also tricked my younger brother into sampling worms (which I wrote about in THIS post), bugs, and dandelions, but I’ll save those stories for another day. Ah the pleasures of being an older brother…

Persimmons brought a mixture of joy and misery into my life. Once the fruit gets ripe; it falls off of the tree. Naturally, this leads to the ground below being covered with plump, juicy, and sticky orange balls. I don’t know if you have ever slipped down into a slimy pile of persimmons, but let me tell you that is one nasty mess! Also much like “manure wars” we had persimmon wars. The green ones hurt, but the ripe orange ones would explode on your body and make a gross mess on your clothes, or in the worst case…your hair. I can still see my sisters and me running barefooted through the yard, slipping in persimmons, slinging them at each other, falling down and getting leaves and dirt matted into our clothes. My granny Spencer also had numerous persimmon trees in her yard and every time we went to her house we would get into them. Usually we would have a war with Becky, Paula, and Jeff Lawson, all whom lived next door to granny. The only thing separating us was a white wooden fence and a driveway. We would sling those persimmons with all of our might at each other, like it was a life or death situation. Oh what fun!

Some people eat persimmons and make things like pies and pudding out of them. I’ve eaten a few ripe ones and they are pretty good but the consistency of the fruit kind of turns me off. They are mushy and slimy, two textures that really don’t agree with my palate.


I came across this website: PersimmonPudding.com, which has lots of good information and stories about persimmons. Check it out when you have time.

The above is a cross post from my Tug's Life blog.

9 comments:

Mike said...

I've eaten these little devils and their cousin the pawpaw in the fall of the year. People will tell you a pawpaw tastes like a banana, but it tastes like a pawpaw to me.

I made a bad mistake one time as a youngster while quail hunting with my father. We were hunting one of the rifle ranges on Ft Knox, Ditto Hill was it's name.

Following the dog we were running, brought us to the parking lot of that range and single tall persimmon tree. Well, I wasn't going to let that go by. But my father was in a hurry. I grabbed handfuls of the berries and shoved them in the pockets of my hunting coat and chased my father across the fields.

Well, it never occurred to my twelve year old mind what I had done. And I didn't realize until I stuck my fingers in my pocket looking for something the error of my ways. My fingers hit the wet, slimy mass of persimmon pudding I had created.

You know, I can't recall eating another persimmon since.

A Disgruntled Republican said...

I love ripe persimmons. I have made a great persimmon liqueur. Sometimes it turns our great and sometimes it doesn't and I don't know why sometimes it works and other times it does not.
Take a lot of very ripe persimmons and put them in a large gallon jar (like a pickle jar). Cover with a high content clear alcohol (rum or vodka will do). Let steep about ten days. squeese the mixture through a cheese cloth. Sweeten to taste. you may want to add a little glycerin to make the texture a little thicker and smooth. Great as a dessert with coffee. A unique liqueur. I've made it about four times, but with mixed results. When it is good, it is very good.
I love your blog.
I have awarded you the Brilliante Weblog Premior 2008 award, If you would like to accept the award please pick it up at here: http://adisgruntledrepublican.blogspot.com/2008/09/brilliante-weblog-premior-2008-award.html

Sally Moon said...

I have always wnated to taste a persimmon and now I want to taste that persimmon liquor

Mushy said...

Had the trick played on me when I was small. My dad also used to tell me that's where they found me - "Up in a persimmon tree!"

Great story, photos, and blog.

You do exactly what I like to do in East Tennessee. Thanks for sharing.

Free Music said...

well love this stuff

Going Crunchy said...

Love this entry!

Did your grandparents ever tell the weather from the seeds:

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/455512/can_you_predict_winter_weather_with.html

I grew up with Grandmaw (Alabama) having Persimmon trees out back by the cowfields. We had a wonderful porch swing right under them, rendered useless at certain parts of the year because of the tree. We used to pull the same tricks you did, but also cut them open at certain times fo the year to see the seeds.

Aleta said...

We moved here to Kyles Ford, TN, four years ago and kept seeing wildlife scat with these brown seeds in it. Couldn't figure out what it was until this year when we noticed blobs of these seeds all over the lane, looked up and saw the persimmon tree. So now I'm trying to find all of the persimmon trees that we have on our property and perhaps one day I'll get to try a ripe persimmon before the wild critters get it all!

Anonymous said...

I love eating the ripe persimmons, they have the best, sweetest flavor in the world to me. Sometimes you can find the much larger cultivated variety in grocery store produce departements, usually labeled "Sharon Fruit". These are much larger and not nearly as flavorful as the smaller wild ones, but you can get an idea of what the flavor is from them. Make sure they are really ripe before eating.. I usually place in the freezer for a day, then thaw and wait a day or so to eat them.. this takes out any remnant bitterness from the oxalic acid that gives them their "pucker" factor... The best are the wild ones though.. yum!!

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