Monday, November 3, 2014

Last Sunday we borrowed the family farm truck and went persimmon picking.

This year there seemed to be an extra abundant harvest.

Unfortunately we only have one or two small female persimmon trees right near our house (along with a plethora of male trees that don't produce fruit). We have tentative plans to remedy that by planting some cultivars in our horse paddocks (surrounded by protective fencing, of course, for our lovely half-giraffe-tree-eating horses *ahem*Chico*cough*cough*). In the meantime we have plenty available to us around the farm as long as we expand our field of scope a bit more. 

Susannah rides in style in the cab of the farm truck.
Then hikes across the field after saying hi to the fall calves.
Traditionally persimmon harvesting is best done by several people holding a sheet spread out under the tree while someone else shakes down the loose, ripe fruit. Not only is this efficient, it also solves the potential problem of a beautiful persimmon landing in the middle of a cow paddy, the presence of which can be rather multitudinous on a beef farm. And also the risk of well-meaning two-year-olds rescuing said fruit out of said cow paddy. Which, of course, we managed to avoid.

Persimmons are only delectable when they are soft and wrinkly and with an apricot hue. Bitter and unripe persimmons can be quite shocking! If they are still firm and don't pop off the branch when given a gentle shake, they are not ready for devouring.

However, with our exuberant helpers and in the excitement of the moment we collected quite a few still clinging to little branches. This just meant that I helped sort through them when we got home before using the choicest ones for baking.

My sister recently did a lovely post on making persimmon cookies, sharing a recipe that has been handed down from our great-great-aunt. Armed with that recipe I was finally ambitious enough to process persimmons for the first time. Not to mention the fact that I could use my little minions (I mean, precious children.....homeschool time!) to do all the messy work. 

They had a blast. Squelching their fingers into soft, fleshy orange fruit that stained their hands and faces (and the table and chairs, and everything else they managed to touch before reaching the bathroom sink...). What could be more fun? The seeds inside the fruit are usually large and easy to find, so they sorted through, tossing seeds and waste into one bowl and yummy mash into another. It took some time, but eventually we had enough fruit pulp to work with. After a bit more research I found that some people recommend using a potato ricer to separate out the seeds and extras. Good to know for future harvests.

I also read that you can easily freeze and preserve the pulp in sealed containers in your deep freeze. Or dehydrate it on a cookie sheet in the oven on low heat to turn it into tasty persimmon leather. (Apparently cooking it other ways - like into jams - brings back its astringency.) Or just eat it straight off the tree as a refreshing snack out in the field. Our preferred method is to pick it from horseback during fall rides.

I still have some experimenting to do when it comes to utilizing this abundant harvest, but it is a skill which I plan on learning more about every year! A sweet treat, available to us for free, and a fun Ozarkian tradition.


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