Saturday, October 17, 2009

Wild Persimmons - Diospyros virginiana

My walk along our roadsides, when it isn't raining as it has been most of this week, finds that the autumn harvest is drawing to a close. The purple grapes of muscadine are gone, the sumac berries have turned from their burgundy to russet, the cattails are beginning to yield their seeds to the wind.

Tucked here and there, the long-awaited wild persimmons have finally had sufficient cold to ripen to a rich orange and a delicious sweetness.

We fill our pockets with the 2" orbs, munching the soft fruit, and scattering the many seeds along the rest of the woodlands in hopes of additional trees.

Diospyros virginiana, or possumwood or American persimmon, can be found from New England to Florida and as far west as Texas and Kansas. The tree can reach just under 70 feet, and I've found it most often growing along moist roadsides - with its 'head' toward the sun, and its feet in the shade.

Small, white-yellow flowers appear in the spring - but in order to have any fruits, one must have both male and female trees for pollination. I have the male trees at the higher end of my property and the females toward the creek. Since pollinators include insects and wind, I'm imagining that the wind floats the pollen from my male trees down the road to the females about 300 feet away.

As we were picking the other day, a car passed us (the driver was checking out the yard sale of my neighbor) and we chatted about the fruits. Her father, she told us, would open the seeds to reveal the embryo inside. Each year, she said the embryo would take a shape - spoon, knife or fork. If it looked like a knife, the winter portended to be cold, a fork, a mild winter, or a spoon, a snowy winter. All the fruits would yield the same shaped embryo. When we opened a few seeds - we have spoons - we we'll see if it is truly going to snow a lot this winter!

The persimmons we purchase in the grocery stores are cultivated varities - and can belong to two groups - an astringent group, like the wild ones, or a non-astringent group, like Fuyu (Asian or Chinese) persimmons. The astringent fruits needs cold or frost in order to soften and ripen sufficiently for eating. Unripe, they can pucker your mouth and add a really distasteful 'cotton' to your tongue! The non-astringent persimmons can be eaten like an apple while they are still firm.

I love persimmons of all kind - and this year we've planted five Fuyus on the property. YUM!

We're off to the zoo today with our students. We're priviledged to have a 'behind the scenes' tour of the grounds and the plants they grow to give the animals a more natural setting. It's not going to reach 60F today, so I'll be in my coat and gloves ...! LOL

Hope your day is terrific!


Connie said...

I love the painting! Makes me smell the persimmon puddings my Mom used to make! Ummmmmm....wonder if I could talk her into....Well anyway.

I learned so much from you today. All the persimmons I've had have been wild so I never thought about planting. How many years does it take to get fruit?

I hope you have a wonderful day with your students.


Anonymous said...

Lovely painting and there are those blues again -- wonderful shading!! Indiana is big state for persimmons but not sure if they are in KY or not. I loved the story about the embryo knives, forks and spoons! Have an enjoyable day -- we are again having the same weather. I am SO longing for the sun.

Teri C said...

Wow, what a gorgeous painting!!!!

pat Clark said...

We have been looking so long for the information on the persimmon tree you describe... finally you have answered it. It is a wild persimmon.

Thank you so much. I love the writing and history and lovely picture.

Would love to grow it as we did find a tree. How can we find one to grow or start one from the seeds we have?

Warm regards and keep writing.. you are very talented.

Pat Clark