Persimmon tree loaded down with tasty fruits

Glenda Barras always has lots of persimmons on her one tree, but this year she thinks she may break a record.

“We’re going to have at least 1,500 this year,” she said.

All of Barras’ family members and friends know when it’s persimmon time. “They start arriving with buckets,” she said.

The persimmon is native to China and is mainly cultivated in Japan. In most countries, it is known as the “kaki.”

According to Elizabeth Schneider in her “Uncommon Fruits & Vegetables: A Commonsense Guide,” the word “persimmon” comes from an Algonquin word given to a small American variety of the fruit.

“The Algonquins collected the bite-sized treats jam-ripe from the ground where they fell and consumed them on the spot; or they dried the fruit and formed it into bricks for winter enjoyment,” Schneider wrote.

Barras picks her persimmons when they are orange and still firm. She lets them ripen off the tree at room temperature.

“A persimmon is ready to eat when it has the softness of a ripe peach,” she said. “It becomes transparent. You can hold it up to a light and see.”

But don’t eat them before they ripen, she warns.

“They will pucker up your lips,” she said. “How many kids have climbed a persimmon tree expecting to ‘borrow’ someone’s cherished fruit to bite into one and pucker up so tightly that all they could do is whistle?”

Persimmons are an excellent source of fiber, Vitamins A and C and the mineral manganese. They are also a source of Vitamin B6 and potassium. A persimmon contains about 118 calories.

“They are healthy like all yellows,” Barras said.

She takes her overripe persimmons, removes the stem and squeezes out the pulp, which she freezes to use throughout the year.

She often uses the pulp in place of oil in recipes. Her recommendation is to use about 11/2 times the amount of oil called for.

“It can be substituted for any fruit in a recipe or anything that would call for mashed yams,” she said. “Any kind of pulp for any fruit is perfect.”

Barras does warn that if you substitute the persimmon pulp for both the fruit and the oil in a recipe, it might be too much persimmon pulp. You might end up with a mixture that is too watery, she said.

Because she had so many persimmons this year, Barras knows next year the tree will take a break.

At the end of the harvest, she will prune the tree, which is as tall as her house. She wants it to branch out so she can reach as much fruit as possible.

However, she still can’t reach the persimmons on the top.

“The ones on the top are for the birds,” she said.

Barras loves the month of October because that is when most persimmons ripen in this area. “I relish the sweet, creamy texture of a soft, plump persimmon on a crisp afternoon in October,” she said.