It’s Almost Time To Pick Persimmons
By Rick Thom
Persimmon fruits are delicious, healthy, and versatile. They taste somewhat like a date mixed with an apricot with hints of honey. But only somewhat. You’ll have to try one to experience their unique flavor. The squishy fruit does not ship well. Since it would turn into a gooey glob by the time it reached a grocery store, you won’t find Missouri persimmons at the market. However, stores sometimes carry an Asian species that is grown commercially.
Persimmons have a range of fruit quality and time of ripening, depending on the tree. Some trees produce plump, juicy, fruit that ripens and falls in September and October. Try to find these trees to supply your persimmons. Other trees produce fruit that is drier, more wrinkled, slower to ripen, and more persistent on the branches. The fruit, although sweet, is too dry and hard to contain much pulp. Some fruits from these trees cling to the branches deep into winter, providing sustained wildlife food when it is most needed.
Persimmon’s puckery reputation may deter people from enjoying this delicious fruit. If in doubt about ripeness, just test it with a small nip through the skin. You’ll quickly learn the characteristics of the ripe ones. Persimmons that have fallen from the tree, and those easily separated from the branches, are almost always ripe. They make great snacks just as they are. I enjoy a few whenever I chance upon them on fall walks.
For baking, you will need enough fruit for a cup or two of pulp. As you gather persimmons clean off any little sticks and leaf fragments, and remove the brown cap that attached them to the branch. Although you can gently wash the fruit when you get home, this is difficult because they are so soft. I prefer to inspect and clean the fruit as I collect it, leaving questionable fruit on the ground.
To separate the pulp, I put the fruit in a colander with fairly large holes and use a porcelain coffee mug as a pestle. I mash the pulp through the colander into a bowl, leaving mostly skin and seeds behind. The thick orange pulp is then ready to use. It makes a good topping for toast or pancakes, or can be added to yogurt, ice cream, or smoothies. Baked persimmon has a different flavor than fresh, but both taste great.
Persimmon pulp can be baked into puddings, pies, cookies, breads, and muffins. There are dozens of recipes in cookbooks and on the internet. You could probably substitute persimmon pulp in any recipe that calls for pumpkin or bananas. I mostly bake mini-muffins. Everyone seems to like them, they are portable, and easy to store. Indulging in a mini-muffin does not count as a departure from any diet—they’re little, after all.
If you find a good source of fruit and want to extend your persimmon season, simply process more pulp and freeze it. You’ll want to collect fruit about every day during the peak of ripening. This will assure fresh fruit as well as beat the wildlife. Last fall I froze almost three gallons of pulp in two-cup quantities. I poured it into quart plastic bags which stack flat in the freezer.
Persimmon fruit is ripening soon. Find some trees and harvest some of nature’s fall bounty.
Rick’s Healthy Whole-Grain Persimmon Mini-Muffins
Yields about 45 muffins and requires two mini-muffin pans.
Date Sugar or Brown sugar 1 cup (lately I only use .5 cup sugar)
Whole wheat flour 1.5 cups (I sometimes substitute buckwheat, almond, or coconut flour for .5 cup of wheat flour to add some variety. Gluten free flour also works)
Slow-cook oatmeal 1.75 cups
Baking soda 1 tsp.
Salt .5 tsp
Ground cloves .5 tsp
Ground allspice 1 tsp.
Ground cinnamon 1tsp. (or more to taste)
(2.5 tsp. of pumpkin pie spice can substitute for the listed spices)
Optional: chopped pecans, walnuts, raisins, cranberries, dried cherries, shredded coconut, chopped dates, etc. (a few optional ingredients make your muffins exceptional)
Canola oil .75 cup
One individual serving of applesauce (the little snack cups)
Persimmon pulp 2 cups (or combination of persimmon and banana pulp if short on persimmon. This recipe turns out well with just bananas, but then you get banana muffins)
Real vanilla 2 tsps.
Instructions: Mix dry ingredients and blend thoroughly, making sure that sugar is completely mixed and not lumpy. Blend all wet ingredients until the mixture is smooth and uniform. Then fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until completely mixed. If batter is too thick, add another single-serving container of unsweetened apple sauce. Spoon batter into paper-lined muffin pans and bake at 350 degrees for 16-20 minutes or until done. To make cookies instead of muffins, place batter onto cookie sheets and bake for 15-20 minutes, checking toward the end to keep from burning the bottom of the cookies. Muffins or cookies can be frozen in air-tight bags until used.