Nature in November

This year, the weather has cooperated and I have been able to process some of the persimmons from my tree. This has been an exceptional year for the harvest, and I am pleased to say that I have at least "done up" some of it. Each year, I watch as the persimmons fall to the ground, getting squished and dirty. I always eat a few, but then other tasks keep me from doing something with the pulp of this amazing fruit. Until it is ripe, the persimmon is quite astringent, and I had always thought that a frost was needed to ripen the fruit. But I have since learned that this is untrue - unlike medlars, a fruit that needs to be bletted, or touched by frost before it is edible - persimmons merely need to ripen. And they also do not ripen all at once. A nightmare for commercial processing, but actually a boon for the small farmer who can spread out the harvest. And better for me, so I can process a little at a time, rather than have to rush to get it done in large batches.

You can place a tarp or sheet under the tree, and shake it like the dickens. The ripe fruit will fall onto the tarp, and then you can pick up the fruit. Those that are unripe will stay on the tree. But be careful - if you shake it too hard, you will snap of the brittle branches and unripe fruit will fall, too. It is said that even one unripe fruit will cause your entire batch to be bitter, so be sure to go over your fruit to ascertain the ripeness of each one. When it's really soft, it is ripe.

The persimmon I grow is native to the U.S., unlike the persimmon one generally sees in grocery stores. Those fruits are Asian in origin, and are quite large, about the size of a small apple. My persimmons are about the size of a quarter or half dollar, and some are a bit smaller than that. This poses a problem in processing, as each fruit contains several large seeds, and it is not easy to separate the seeds from the pulp, which is quite sticky. What I did was get an old-fashioned cone-type food mill, which I found at an "antique" store in Maine. I put the persimmons into the mill, and used the large wooden pestle to ream out the fruit. The seeds stay behind, though quite a bit is lost as it clings to the seeds. But from one tray of persimmons I made about 2 quarts of pulp, so it seemed to work fairly well. It is a bit arduous, but the smell is pleasant and the job goes fairly quickly.

I froze a number of bags of pulp, to use in recipes throughout the winter. Most recipes are desserts, like puddings, breads, cookies, etc. But the more fun recipe was to make a fruit leather. Since the persimmon is so sweet, it didn't require any sugar. The first batch I made I used straight pulp, spreading it as directed by my dehydrator instructions about 1/4" thick. In about 12 hours, the leather was done. I cut it into strips and stored it in glass jars. The next batch, I decided to add some lime juice, to brighten the flavor a little. We'll see which tastes better. 

The fruit is high in glucose, and has high levels of potassium, dietary fiber, magnesium, calcium and iron. They also are a good source of vitamin C and beta-carotene. Deer and other critters love them, but they do make a mess of your lawn, so plant them where you will not be slipping in the squished fruits. I have several young trees that have appeared in the yard, so it seems that they are fairly easy to grow from seed. I like the fact that they are so late to ripen - there are not many fruits that you can harvest in October into November.

Enjoy nature in November!

Karen