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:, 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.