Rupert Howell’s Column

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 5, 2007

Persimmon tree provides bearings beyond its fruit

After months of politics including elections won, elections lost, charges of rascality and admissions thereof and a heap of other goings on,  simple pleasures of life seem to be calling.

It doesn’t take a lot to entertain my simple mind and while staring out the side yard window at a nearby persimmon tree I was reminded that this is my favorite  season. For those not familiar with wild persimmons, they can be both beautiful and ugly. A cattle or horse rancher might think they were ugly if you consider the little trees that spring up year after year in nearby pastures where they grow.

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But the fruit of the persimmon is sweet and pungent and I have yet to find an  animal that doesn’t dearly love to consume them. They do make a mess when you  step on them and they tend to draw insects such as flies, wasps and yellow jackets after they are left on the ground unattended in warm weather.

 But, they don’t lie on the ground unattended long in the wild. Deer and coon hunters know their prey makes frequent visits to persimmon trees in early fall  when the fruit ripens. O’possums, deer, coon, birds of many types, yard and wild dogs genuinely love them.

I once had a highly intelligent varmint dog that would call “fair catch” when the tell-tale sign of a ripe persimmon would hit the nearby shed roof  warning all within hearing distance that “manna was falling from heaven” and would soon roll off the slanted roof to ground level.

We’ve counted as many as three raccoons in the nearby tree at the same time one evening and three young buck deer frequented it regularly a few years back.

None of this is rare, but this particular tree is approximately 20 feet from our house. Each year, even when other persimmon trees have little fruit, ours is always loaded. If anyone ever told you that persimmons are not edible until after the first frost, they haven’t eaten wild persimmons from our tree.

And any boy who has spent time in the woods should have tasted and shared the experience of eating a green persimmon. It will turn your mouth inside out and is probably why many still think that you can’t eat a persimmon until after the first frost.

This year has been no different and I decided to gather some of the fruit for human consumption. The trick is to get the fresh persimmons before the insects and dogs beat you to it. I rinse the fruit, decap it and put it into some sort of food processor that we borrowed from my mother-in-law several years ago. It works so good, we haven’t returned it.

With this persimmon pulp my wife will make persimmon bread similar to banana nut bread but better because my wife made it and I stay with her. It has the a faint, sweet smell of persimmons. I also save some of the raw pulp and spread it over toast, biscuit, bagel or muffin.

In this particular tree, some of the fruit clings until December or later. Peckerwoods of different types will visit, peck the bark looking for small insects and usually one bird will build a nest on a high fork. Cedarwaxwings, Baltimore Orioles and other birds that move quicker than my eyes visit this tree finishing off the fruit until it is nothing more than a bird perch in late, late winter.

That persimmon tree stands for all those simple pleasures where I occasionally find solace.