Discovering Persimmons And Bittersweet

| 11/19/2015 10:03:00 AM

Country MoonAutumn is a great time of year for getting outside and taking long walks in the woods. For one thing, the air is crisp and is filled with the blended scents of forest, fallen leaves and everything harvest. Every time I go on a hike I see, hear or smell something new. On a recent outing I broadened my taste horizon as well.

Our country is grouped into such large regions; the South, Midwest, East and West. Within each of those areas you don’t have to travel too many miles to find different floral and fauna offerings. On a recent trip to east central Indiana I got to experience persimmons and bittersweet for the first time.

Let’s go with the persimmons first. I was introduced to them in a rather odd fashion. A friend and I were walking through his woods and he stopped and asked if I had ever seen persimmons before. They are either round or oval flavorful fruits that grow on trees, originating from the Far East. When ripe the fruit is deep red to burgundy.

Knowing I had never had one before, my friend plucked one from the tree and began polishing it on his shirt as you would an apple. I thought how sweet of him as I plucked it from his hand and popped it in my mouth. The first taste was good, but then my mouth started to draw up and my mouth went numb and puckered.

What he had not gotten around to tell me (was it on purpose??) was that if persimmons are eaten before they are completely ripe you will have the strongest mouth-puckering experience of your life because of their astringency. OK, in his defense, he did not tell me to eat it, but he did not tell me not to either! Everything has its time and a persimmon’s time is when it is EXTREMELY ripe.

Actually, they are classified into two categories, the ones which are astringent and those which are not. Those that are, like the one that I tasted, must be completely ripe and almost to the mushy stage before they can be enjoyed. The non-astringent type, however, can be eaten while they are still crispy with no adverse affects.

Once they are ripe, persimmons are fruits you may want to explore. They can be eaten in a variety of ways such as added to yogurt or ice cream and other desserts and baked into cookies or cakes, among other things. Many people use them in recipes that call for bananas, replacing the bananas with persimmons. Just a word of warning, using baking soda in the recipe will reduce the astringency and thicken the pulp but will also make the batter light and airy. To counteract this, use half the amount of baking soda which will yield a denser end product.

11/22/2015 8:49:21 AM

Lois, persimmons grows wild in Missouri so when I was courting my first wife who lived in Missouri, I got exposed to the persimmon fruit. She warned me that the persimmon fruit had to go through a hard frost or it would be too bitter to eat. I had many woods experiences with her and her two brothers. Huge areas of wild blackberry patches were a source of berry eating. I learned a lot about foraging while dating her. I don't recall hearing about any bitter sweet vines. ***** Have a great Thanksgiving.

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