Kentucky persimmons (Diospyros virginiana) puzzle me. How do they stay so delicious for so long in fall and winter weather? Why do some individual persimmons remain tannic even when they are ripe and soft? And what do I do with a whole lot of somewhat tannic, puckery persimmon pulp that mysteriously thickened when I started mixing it?
Until our neighborhood gained its urban orchards a few years ago, I had never eaten more than a handful of persimmons, as cherished treats, usually while standing under the tree that produced them. I had never seen native persimmons in enough abundance to go beyond this walk-in-the-woods treat, and even if I had happened on a gazillion persimmons, I would have had no idea how to extract the pulp from the usually seedy fruits. Now the abundant persimmons in my urban neighborhood orchards and a handy secret tip from Chef Ouita Michel have expanded my persimmon portfolio to include persimmon ice cream, persimmon mousse, and persimmon beignets. Eventually I’ll share recipes. For today, here’s how to get ready.
Persimmon Pulp Process
Locate one or more persimmon trees, or grow your own. Fruits come faster than you think, and right now is the time to order from Nolin River Nut Tree Nursery or Peaceful Heritage Permaculture Nursery, which sells certified organic fruit trees. Selections change each year.
In the fall, collect fruit after it is very soft. Usually, fruit that falls to the ground or can be shaken from the tree has ripened enough. Don’t worry about waiting for frost. This year the first persimmons near me ripened by mid-September, and, as you know, continued maturing through the beginning of the new year.
Rinse fruits thoroughly with cool water.
Place the fruits in a mesh bag you save from lemons or oranges (the stiff yellow net bags work well). This is Chef Ouita’s tip, without which I can’t imagine producing persimmon puree.
Set a large mesh strainer over a large bowl. Squeeze, squeeze, squeeze the persimmons into the strainer. It is messy. You will see brown stuff along with the orange. A few seeds may escape. Ignore them and keep squeezing and kind of “milking” the net bag until the seeds and skins inside the net do not want to give up any more pulp. Set the seeds and pulp aside. If you are brave, try persimmon vinegar. I’ve not had any luck with this so far.
Push the pulp through the strainer. I use a silicone spatula. The resulting puree in the bowl should be bright orange, free of seeds or skins, smooth, somewhat thick and ready for many uses. It is beautiful. Taste it: it’s delicious, too.
You can use it immediately or refrigerate for use within two days. Otherwise, freeze it for later use. I have used pint containers, but often end up needing just one cup per recipe, so freezing in one cup amounts may make good sense.
Note: all my persimmon writings feature Kentucky persimmons, which are quite different from the larger, juicier, seedless Asian persimmons.