Mick Telkamp

Mick Telkamp

If you plucked the vibrant fruit from the Hachiya persimmon tree just a few weeks ago and took a healthy bite, you’d be left wondering why anyone would ever willingly eat one.

Pick the acorn shaped fruit of the Hachiya persimmon tree five minutes early and you’ll quickly understand why deer seem to leave this fruit alone until it has fallen to the ground.  Unripened, the tannin content in a persimmon is sky high. Balanced tannins can bring an appealing “mouthfeel” to red wine. Unchecked though, this natural astringent is maddeningly, mouth-puckeringly dry. Not unlike chewing on a mouthful of uncarded wool.

A ripe persimmon, however, is a different story.

Once fully ripe, the persimmon becomes syrupy, sweet, irresistible and ripe for the picking. Or better still, picking up, once they have fallen from the tree. The fruit holds on to the tree just a little longer than the leaves, but as soon as they begin to fall, they are ready to be harvested and used in baking or cooking. The smaller Fuyu persimmon, a rounder variety resembling a tomato, is milder and can be eaten fresh as a vitamin and fiber-rich hand fruit unlike any other.

Oh, and persimmons can predict the future.

So says folklore anyway. According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, slicing the seeds of the Hachiya along the edge will predict the severity of the coming winter. Examining the shape of the seed’s core is said to reveal all in a way that may appeal to the superstitious gourmand.

If the core is the shape of a fork, a mild winter lies ahead. The shape of a knife predicts icy conditions and if a spoon-shaped center is revealed, break out the shovel. Heavy snowfall is soon to come. Does it work? I wouldn’t plan your ski vacation around it.

Around here, the most commonly found persimmon is the Fuya, so I will have to wait and see what winter brings. In the meantime, I’ll put this fruit to good use.

The tangy sweet taste and silky texture of a well-ripened persimmon lends itself well to baked goods and other sweets. Persimmons commonly show up in seasonal takes on griddle cakes, tarts, quick breads or jam. I used mine in both cookies and ice cream.

The appeal of the persimmon extends beyond the sweet tooth, though. A trend toward using local and seasonal ingredients has this often ignored fruit enjoying a resurgence on restaurant menus, where it may be used not just in desserts, but in savory dishes as well. Persimmons can be used in soups, sauces, or as a glaze for game birds or pork.

However you plan to use it, act fast. Persimmon season lasts just a couple of months. Or maybe a little longer, depending on the winter climate. What did the seed have to say?

Persimmon Ice Cream and Cookies
Savor the unique flavor of the persimmon in ice cream and cookies.

Persimmon Cookies

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
4 persimmons, pureed
1 egg
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Cream butter and brown sugar together.

Add persimmon, egg and baking soda and blend well.

Sift together flour, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a separate bowl, then add to persimmon blend.

Stir in pecans, if desired.

Drop by teaspoons onto a greased baking sheet and bake 18 minutes at 350 degrees.

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