Harvest

I don’t pretend to understand The Way of The Persimmon.

In years past our little tree in the back yard has produced voluminous harvests of plump, delicious orange persimmons, starting in late October, more than we could eat, more than we could give away, enough to feed all the lazy Southern California birds in our neighborhood, who don’t actually fly south for the winter, because they already are south, but who gorge themselves on nature’s bounty anyway, as if planning a long flight to a warmer clime.Persimmons

I’ve never known exactly how to prune a persimmon tree, but for years I’ve had the nagging felling that I should Do Something for the tree, as she does so much for us. So last year, after all the persimmons were gone, after all the leaves had changed to red and gold and fallen off and been raked and hauled away and nothing was left but the bare, forlorn branches, and dormancy had set in, I went out there with a couple of primitive, inadequate city-slicker tools and did the best I could, cutting off the “shooters” and shaping the branches the way a city boy imagined it should be done.

When I was finished and got off the ladder and stepped back to evaluate my work I was horrified with what I had done. I was sure I had cut too much, that I had somehow injured her. Various helpful friends and family assured me over the ensuing months that I had done a good job, that she probably liked the cutback, the excess of those little twigs was really a drain on her reproductive efforts, etc.

I wasn’t convinced until spring, when she started to get green again. In short order she was as lush and luxuriant as ever, sprouting a million shiny bright green leaves and looking as chipper as she did ten years ago when we first met her. Whew!

The crop this year is smaller than usual, but the fruit is, if such a thing is possible, even tastier than last year — I’m battling the piggy birds for every last persimmon, and I’m realizing that I should have figured out a way to lop off the highest branches when I was pruning last winter, because there are some pretty damned choice persimmons up there. I can see ’em, but they are too high to reach and the branches are still too new and flimsy for me to climb up there. The birds, outraged when they see me start to climb the tree, their tree, sneer and laugh derisively once they realize that I can’t touch them (or the persimmons) way up high.

We thought there wouldn’t be enough fruit this year to do any baking. Our friends have come to expect gifts of persimmons at this time of year, and with the diminished crop we were resigned to having a month or so of fruit-eating frenzy (and sharing), but no persimmon bread.

At first we made persimmon bread only because there were a hundred mushy persimmons left over after we had given away all we could unload and eaten all we could hold and we lived and still do by our depression-era parents’ dictum Don’t waste food. But there is not a lot of sweet-eating at revision99 World Headquarters, and after the first time we baked with persimmons (and copious amounts of pure white sugar) I was determined never to miss another opportunity. So it is with considerable relief that I report now that there will be persimmon bread again this year!

I have waxed as poetically as I am capable of on this subject here and here, so I won’t bother you with a rehash. If you love me you will go back and read those posts and mourn with me the loss of creativity I’ve undergone in the past few years. But yesterday I got a new comment on a persimmon post from last winter, from “rnmama” of Florida, who says

I’ve looked everywhere for the recipe, can you please advise how to get it? My sister/brother-n-law have the exact same story of their “American Persimmon”; the downside is that neither of them eat Persimmon-they inherited the tree when they bought the house, so we all go over and hoard the tree in Nov/Dec. I now am trying to grow a plant of our own from their seeds; we’re in FL so it shouldn’t be hard, right?

I’m sorry, rnmama, if you’re still reading. How rude of me not to post the recipe! I found it years ago online, and I’m sure you could do the same, since you are computer-literate enough to find my year-old post about this, but since you asked, please let me share it now:

Ingredients

*Â Â Â 2 cups flour, sifted (I, and kStyle, heartily recommend King Arthur Flour)
*Â Â Â 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
*Â Â Â 2 teaspoons baking soda
*   ½ teaspoon salt
*   1 ¼ cups sugar
*   ½ cup raisins
*   ½ cup chopped nuts (I use pecans or walnuts, but not both. And the more the merrier.)
*Â Â Â 2 eggs
*   ¾ cup oil
*Â Â Â 2 cups pureed ripe persimmon pulp (Don’t try this with firm, ripe fruit. Wait until the persimmons are pretty soft before you start. I’ve done this with a food processor and with a blender. Works either way.)
*Â Â Â 1 teaspoon lemon juice (Get a real lemon and squeeze it. No plastic lemons!)

Procedure

Note: You’re going to need a couple of big mixing bowls. If you never bake, like me, you’ll be scrambling in the middle of this project to find a second one. If you’re a novice, as I am, read the recipe before you start, and equip yourself as need be. Also, you will not be happy with just two loaves. Just sayin’.

Combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and sugar. Stir in raisins and nuts. Set aside.

Beat Eggs with oil. Add persimmon pulp and lemon juice. Add flour mixture. Mix until just blended.

Turn into 2 greased 8×4-inch loaf pans and bake at 350 degrees (325 degrees for glass pans) 1 hour* or until wood pick inserted in center comes out clean.

*NOTE: Check at 42 minutes! And use your head. Too moist is better than burned, okay?

Makes 2 loaves, 8 servings each. Bread will not have high volume. (This means it will not swell up like regular bread. It’s more like cake. Think of it that way.)

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If you don’t have any mushy persimmons or a tree, stop by the house around Christmas. As always, my dear bloggin’ buddies, my heart beats only for you.

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9 Replies to “Harvest”

  1. All hail the Great King! King of cakes! Prince of pies! Lord of loaves! We are the loyal vassals of Arthur! (I decided to promote myself from “serf.”)

    Happy harvest, Larry.

  2. I don’t think I can even buy a persimmon in this area. I found some at my favorite Indian grocer in Chicago last year, and brought them back to share with my boss. I had no idea what to do with them. Now I know…next time I’m on Devon Street…

  3. I have TWO persimmon trees and several tons of persimmons. THANK you, Larry, for the recipe for that lucious-looking bread. It’s making my mouth water.

    Thus armed, I will make my way to the kitchen and bake up many, many fine Christmas, Solstice, Hannukah, Kwanza and Whatever gifts! You’re a prince!

  4. LARRY! I’m eating my first persimmon ever right NOW! There were the persimmons in a fragrant, orange-red pyramid at the fancy fruit store. I thought of your posts and had to try. DELICIOUS! Almost cinnamon-like and very sweet. THANKS!

  5. A little online research revealed that I found me a hachiya, which is an astringent persimmon. Astringent, indeed! The Intertubes advise it should be absolutely ripe or it will cause painfully dry mouth. Although my fruit was so ripe that it was wonderfully melty and mushy, my mouth felt as if I drank gallons of acidic black tea in a few minutes.

    No matter, cured by drinking milk.

  6. Fuyu! And here I thought that fuyu was a poisonous fish enjoyed as a culinary delicacy by devil-may-care Japanese businessmen.

    A very educational experience all around.

    The Abbott and Costello reference made me giggle.

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