By all accounts, I should be somewhat sorry when it begins to happen: first, it's undeniable evidence of the carefree, unscripted summer's ending. Even though autumn is my favorite time of year -- the crisp weather, beautiful colors, pungent fragrance -- there's some intangible sense of ending that brings an inexplicable touch of sadness to my soul. Secondly, something in me feels OBLIGATED to pick them up, which is a backbreaking, messy job, which leads in turn to more backbreaking, messy work in the kitchen preparing them for use. And third, the shorter, darker days of winter, which inevitably bring sickness and much time spent indoors, are always difficult for me.
Nevertheless, today my soul is singing happy songs thanks to the persimmons. They provide a feast for ALL the senses, a surprisingly sensual fruit in my estimation. First comes the visual treat of watching them appear in mid-summer, tiny green spheres hidden among dusty emerald leaves in a nondescript tall, skinny tree. I can't even say what their flowers look like, they are so insignificant. But watching the fruit develop is a joy-- they seem to inflate quite rapidly from pea-sized to full-blown (approximately 1-2 inches in diameter). And soon the pale green merges into shades of yellow, gold and orange that reminds me of carnelian stones. On the ground, their rusty watercolors are punctuated by their dark brown calyx, the remains of the four-lobed flower which has gone unnoticed.
I know my persimmon days will begin soon when I hear the "Plop-plop" of the first fruit falling. It may be a late summer rain shower, or a sudden breeze that brings them down, but whatever the cause, I smile at the sound. And soon I'm heading to the garage to dig out the tarps that will capture them. Next comes the indescribable fragrance: so spicy-sweet it tickles your nose until ungathered ones begin to ferment under the trees. Those are the ones I leave for the bees and ants-- why be a glutton?
A fastidious person (which I am not) would probably not relish gathering persimmons. I frankly enjoy handling the tender, squishy fruit, perhaps simply because I know that the best ones are quite soft, which means they often fall apart into soft shapeless blobs which soon turn gluey on my fingers. Scrubbing my hands with a rough sponge or cloth is a small price to pay for the reward.
Which brings me to the delectable taste that resembles nothing else I can think of. Persimmons often suffer the undeserved reputation of being sour until combined with sugar. On the contrary, they are as sweet as honey with a touch of spice. Now unripe-- that's another story. Though I've never tried for myself, I hear they can make you pucker for quite some time!
The next challenge, which I truly delight in, is discovering new ways to use these autumn treasures. I've found fabulous recipes for bread, cake, cookies, and muffins, but nothing will ever compare to my Aunt Mid's Persimmon Pudding. Since I gladly share the recipe with friends, I suppose there's no harm in including it here. It might become your favorite, too!
Aunt Mid's Persimmon Pudding
1. Wash and mash persimmons through a sieve, removing seeds.
2. Combine: 2 cups pulp, 3 eggs, 1 3/4 cups milk.
3. Sift together: 2 cups flour, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (OR 1/2 tsp. cinnamon & 1/2 tsp. nutmeg). Add to persimmon mixture.
4. Then add: 1 1/2 cups sugar, 3 Tbsp. butter, melted, and vanilla to taste. OPTIONAL ADD-INS: coconut, raisins, nuts. (NOTE: I ALWAYS use coconut.)
5. Pour into oiled (I use Pam spray.) 2" deep 9x11 pan or baking dish. Bake at 325F for 1 hour.
6. Glaze: 1/4 cup boiling water, 3 Tbsp. brown sugar. Dissolve and brush on top after baking.
NOTE: I have made this recipe using egg substitute, gluten-free flour, and coconut milk, and it's just as good as ever!!!
Well, I hope you enjoy the recipe and have a wonderful "Persimmon Fall"!
"For seven days celebrate the Feast to the Lord your God at the place the Lord will choose. For the Lord your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete." (Deuteronomy 16:15, NIV)