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.