Gathering Wild Persimmons

Fall has officially arrived.  How do I know?  The wild persimmons are ripe.  We are fortunate to have a wild persimmon tree on the edge of our woods producing a sweet delight every fall and early winter.

Wild persimmons are not quite the same as those available commercially.  They are much smaller in size – not even as big as a golf ball – and they have lots of large seeds.  Some people think, because of the small flesh to seed ratio, they are too much trouble to eat.  But given their rich, luscious taste, I just consider it a lesson in well-rewarded patience.

Like many wild edible plants, wild persimmons are higher in nutrients than their cultivated counterparts. Just one tiny persimmon gives you 27% of the vitamin C you need for the day!

Pucker Up – How to Tell if a Persimmon is Ripe

How can you tell if the fruit is ripe?  LOL!  It isn’t very difficult!  Just one mouth-puckering taste of an unripe persimmon and you’ll never want to make that mistake again. (Yes, I know this from experience.)

A wild persimmon is not fully ripe until it is super soft, somewhat mushy, and a little wrinkled.  To the inexperienced, a truly ripe persimmon may seem to be over ripe and on the verge of spoiling (it definitely lacks the shelf appeal of commercial fruit!), but anything less will leave a nasty chalk feel in your mouth and make your mouth pucker.

Unripe or partially ripe persimmons should not be eaten.

We usually allow the ripe fruit to fall from the tree before gathering.  The ones still attached to the branches are usually unripe.

Where to Find Wild Persimmons

The persimmon tree grows wild in zones 6 to 10 in areas that have moderate winters.  They can be found along fence rows, on the edge of the woods, in rich bottom lands, along roadsides, and in parks of New Jersey, Southern Pennsylvania, Southern Ohio, Southern Indiana, Southern Illinois, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Eastern Texas, Louisiana, South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.

Persimmon trees prefer full sun, so fruit production may diminish on trees growing along the edge of woodlands as the woods grow out around the tree.

In late fall when most of the leaves have fallen from the trees, a persimmon tree crowded with loads of little apricot-colored fruit can really stand out.

When to Harvest Wild Persimmons

Depending on where you live, wild persimmons begin to ripen September through late November.  Light frost doesn’t harm the fruit, so they can be picked very late in the year.

Sweet, Rich Autumn Treat

I recently saw on a website that wild persimmons were not meant to be eaten out-of-hand, but rather included in cookies and other baked goods.  I guess someone should have told our family that many years ago.  We thoroughly enjoy the sugar-sweet feast every autumn.

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9 Responses to “Gathering Wild Persimmons”

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  1. Charlie Sommers says:

    I have eaten many a wild persimmon in my 71 years on this planet. I used to pick them off the trees in the winter when I was out rabbit hunting, they were small and shriveled like raisins but were as sweet as sugar. My old aunt, who was born back in 1892, used to pack them in fruit jars where rather than spoiling they would collapse into a sticky mess but remain sweet and edible for quite some time.

    My Japanese wife prefers the seedless Asian types that are large but the little wild ‘simmon is the one for me.

    I had a friend a few years back who had a small herd of goats. The goats used to lay under a persimmon tree that was in their pasture eagerly waiting for a persimmon to fall. These goats were no fools and knew what was good.

  2. Jennifer says:

    I bought a house 3 years ago with this crazy tree in the back yard. Since then have been trying to figure out what this beautiful fall fruit was and could I eat it. I will admit I tasted one a while back to see if it would make me sick. I see the deer eat them every year so I figured I should be ok. Yuck!! It was obviously not ripe or just not meant for me to eat is what I thought. So happy I found your blog. My tree is so full and fall is almost here and I cannot wait to try again using your advice.

    • Jennifer says:

      Lol! Those unripe ones sure are terrible. :) I hope the deer leave you a few persimmons and you get to enjoy some ripe ones this year!

  3. andy says:

    here on the west coast of Florida, it is August 2014 and the ripe fruit are falling to the ground already.
    My wife thinks I am nuts to “mess around” with this little fruit, but man, it is a treat. As if it wasn’t enough of a chore to harvest and ready them for eating, I like to peel the skin off, as I find it better without. I am on the hunt for some kind of recipe for making a bread (ala….banana bread) with the fruits.
    Jam’s or Jellies are not for me, this fruit needs no extra sweetener.

  4. Alison Jones says:

    I have many trees on our property. What is the easiest way to get the pulp from these small persimmons. I’ve been told to peel them which is impossible, mashing with a potato masher and boiling down. I would love to use these, but am clueless on how to get the sweet pulp from them. Any ideas would be appreciated.

    • Hi Alison,
      Since we enjoy eating them whole, we’ve never tried removing the pulp. Sorry I can’t help you there.
      How nice that you have lots of trees on your property! :)

    • rock barnett says:

      I take the ripe persimmons and smash them through a screen colander and scrape off the pulp from the back side. then dry out the pulp. doing it in the oven works but i am looking into getting a food dehydrator.

  5. sarah friedman says:

    we have lots of trees and they are loaded this year! the horses stay under them grabbing all they can before the cows get them. i am going to try processing some if i can convince my husband to pick a few. there are alot of recipes to choose from! years ago my grandfather had a cook who, according to my dad, made a delicious persimmon cake. all he remembered was that it was good, nothing about how it was made.

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