Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Pucker Up! A Passion for Persimmons

Sink your teeth into an unripe persimmon, and you're not likely to ever forget the experience. The tannin in the unripened fruit will make you pucker and squint and strike a pose more fearsome than our friend the 'possum here. Its astringent properties are the stuff of legend, and anyone lucky enough to grow up in the rural southeast has probably been pranked by a pal with a puckery persimmon.

If you've ever been the victim of such a stunt, you may never have mustered the courage to give them another try. If so, you've missed out on one of the natural food delicacies of North Carolina. Skeptical? Just ask our friend the Virginia opossum here. See that grin? Chances are, she just left the persimmon tree around the corner. If she's here on the porch eating cat food, it's only because the persimmons are all gone, or they're not ripe yet!
Earlier this year, we met the
Hickory Horned Devil , another huge fan of the persimmon tree, though the devil and the possum clearly favor different parts of the tree.

Known by many Southerners as the possumwood, naturalists refer to it as American Persimmon or Diospyros virginiana, literally "fruit of the god Zeus found in Virginia."

If you're lucky enough to taste a persimmon that's been kissed by the first frost, you'll likely concur with the heavenly appellation.

Eaten out of hand or prepared in pies and puddings, persimmons have long been a favorite of rural folk in the South.

So look for them this fall, as the leaves drop from the trees. There's a bumper crop this year in my neck of the woods; if I'm lucky, maybe Grandpa will finally agree to share his recipe for persimmon beer...


  1. beer!?
    Never heard of such a thing.
    We have a neighbor who's husband loved persimmon pudding and when she would burn one we would be the lucky ones to get the treat. Mark loved the burnt offering- it was just perfect.

    1. Absolutely! You should get your brewer friends to give it a try. I'll dig up the recipe for you!