Persimmons are one of my favorite fall fruits, perhaps because they as such a special, seasonal treat. I know many people are put off by the astringency or chalkiness of persimmons, but here’s the deal: a truly ripe persimmon is neither astringent nor chalky, just sweet, smooth, mellow, and delicious. The key is to eating them when they are really, really ripe! In this post, I’ll share how to harvest and preserve persimmons for winter eating.
The Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, and lower Midwest states are blessed with the native American Persimmon, Diospyros virginiana, whose genus means “fruit of the gods”. They are smaller than the Asian persimmons that you often see sold at natural food stores or in Asian markets, and their flavor is slightly different – perhaps a bit more musky and less sweet; I recently read of someone describing them as “pumpkin meets honey.” The trees are prolific and native to this area. In fact, we planted about 15 trees this year, one of which has just started to bear fruit.
How to Harvest and Preserve Persimmons
I start watching a few local trees in late September – early October. Because native persimmons do not ripen all at the same time like some other fruits do, you will likely find a tree that is both loaded with fruit on the branches with perfectly ripe fruit on the ground. Look for fruits with a dark orange blush and an almost translucent quality. It is easy to tell the fresh fruit from the few-days-old fruit on the ground by the orange (as opposed to brown) tint to their skin.
Local lore and many internet resources tell us that you should never harvest persimmons until after the first frost. In my experience, I have found this untrue. I have successfully harvested native persimmons for the past three years before a frost. However, to avoid any astringent or chalky flavor, you want to harvest only the most ripe and fresh persimmons. You will know they are ripe and ready to eat because the persimmons will be so soft that they almost crack their skins! Gently pick them off the tree, give the tree a gentle shake, or pick intact ripe persimmons off the ground; if you use too much pressure, you will inadvertently turn them to mush!
Our favorite way to preserve persimmons is to put them through a food mill like this one and freeze the pulp for winter baking. In the photo above, you can see the simple stainless steel food mill that we use. It comes with interchangeable filters with varying size holes. I insert the filter with the largest hole and place the mill above a large bowl or pot. After running the fruit through the mill, you will be left with a food mill full of seeds and a bowlful of beautiful orange persimmon pulp.
The first year that we preserved persimmons in this way, I tossed the seeds into the compost, and next spring, found dozens and dozens of young persimmon trees in my garden beds!
I simply spoon this pulp into quart sized freezer bags, measuring out approximately 2 cups per bag for easy use in future recipes. The bags then get stacked in our chest freezer. So easy!
Ways to Enjoy your Preserved Persimmon
I like to enjoy persimmons in the classic Persimmon Pudding (using this recipe as a starting point) and in other baked goods such as quick breads and muffins. I usually look for pumpkin recipes and sub out the pumpkin puree for my persimmon puree. You might also like to try the following:
- Adding persimmon pulp to smoothies
- Folding the puree into yogurt
- Persimmon cookies (This recipe is a winner!)
- Persimmon granola
- Persimmon fruit leather
- Adding the puree to pancakes
Or you can just eat the puree as is. It’s that good.
If you live in a region where American persimmons grow, I highly encourage you to seek some out! They are one of my absolute favorite fruits, and true seasonal treat.
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