Persimmons have a color all their own. Under their scalloped black hats is a pinkish orange with pale blue gray shadows. This time of year you can see them still clinging to wispy branches after leaves have fallen, like tiny bright birds ready for flight.
There was a persimmon tree near the porch of the cottage where my parents set up housekeeping.
When they built their new stone house at the top of the hill, Mom and Dad rented the cottage to summer vacationers or used it for a guest house. We kids found it a grand place to play when it was unoccupied. A trunk full of clothes from the 1890s provided costumes for our many impromptu plays. A spinning wheel seemed right ready to go to work if we’d had our great grandmother’s skills and materials. And, to make the place chillingly scary, there were two six foot rattlesnake skins my father had kept from his days homesteading on Cape Canaveral. And, joy of joys, in October the persimmons began to fall giving us wonderful refreshment.
There weren’t any low limbs on the tree and it was a hard one to climb so we had to wait for the fruit to fall. When a persimmon plunked into the grass it split in tiny cracks giving one a peek of the sweet orangey inside. If it didn’t squish down juicily it probably wasn’t ripe and if a sibling teased you into biting into it your mouth would go into a torture twist for five minutes. The juicy ones, though, were incredibly sweet and delicious. You had to be on the lookout for those plops or they would be attacked by bees and ants before you could claim them.
My mother made persimmon pudding if we managed to take her enough fruit both from that tree and another one in the meadow. Her pudding was absolutely heavenly, better than sweet potato casserole. Sometimes the boys brought a possum instead of a bucket of persimmons. The possums liked that fruit too, enough that they’d risk being treed by boys and dogs on a moonlit night.
Years later, after Charles and I moved to South Georgia, I met another persimmon tree. It grew in a corner of the pasture behind Mama and Papa Graham’s house. I was so thrilled to find it, like an old friend in a far country. But I never really captured enough fruit to do any more than snack on one or two. I couldn’t set a watch on the tree and the pasture grass was not particularly clean.
Yes, you can buy persimmons at the market. They will be much bigger than the wild ones, maybe almost as big as a tennis ball instead of barely ping pong ball size. They will not be soft or quite so full of seeds but will be quite firm. The color will be that same indescribably orangey pink but without the pale blue gray shadows. And the taste? The market persimmons are good but if you’ve ever eaten the wild ones you will be disappointed in those you buy.
A year or two ago our friends Johnny and Susan Hancock brought us persimmons from their tree. They were large and sweet, almost as good as the little wild ones from the tree beside the cottage, and I enjoyed them so much. The taste reminded me of those days when my siblings and I vied to see who would get each persimmon that fell. In addition to savoring the bit of sweet fruit, we also enjoyed seeing how far we could spit the seeds.
As October turns into November and the fields are white with cotton; as the sweetgums grow bright and goldenrods fade beside the fences; as you drive across the countryside enjoying the autumn scenes, look for a persimmon tree growing at the edge of a pasture. The leaves will have fallen, leaving exposed the tiny orangey pink fruits ready to plop into the grass–unless a hungry possum gets them first. Do the possums’ mouths go into a torture twist if they eat persimmons before they’re ripe?
He waters the mountains from his upper chambers; the land is satisfied by the fruit of his work. Psalm 104:13