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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10 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! :)

      • Stacy says:

        Hi Alison,

        I live in Missouri & we have 21 persimmon trees in our persimmon grove, the malnes are on the other side of our property by our pond, which are both in the horses back wooded field, so I am usually unable to get persimmons. This year it worked out that the horses weren’t in the field yet, but the deer were. When we noticed them not coming as much, I was able to start foraging myself. During this year a new tree has grown & it’s a girl! She’s about 6′ tall & am looking forward to pruning her in the spring. She bore 6 persimmons this year. (I have read that it takes a few years for them to bear fruit.) I am looking forward to her getting big & then I won’t have to disrupt the horses & the rotation of the fields. And hopefully won’t have to bring a shovel with me to kill the baby copperheads. I put a little water in a bucket or bowl & I use one of those grabbers that the elderly use to reach things to pick them up after a few backaches. It’s also helpful to knock around the leaves on the ground that they get stuck under. I bring my 2 big dogs with me that way they scare whatever is below or in the leaves. When I bring them in, I put them in another bowl of cold water, but not all at once. I renew the water as needed. I shake them individually as to get off any dirt, grass or debris. Then I turn the sepal off at the top & cut off the black piece on the bottom. Then I put them in a bigger bowl & seal it with Glad Press ‘n’ Seal & add to itasI gather more each day & date it the day I start the bowl. After 2 or 3 days I remove the bowl from the fridge put them in an old enamel collainder & put a bowl under it that the collainder sits in but leaves headway underneath for pulp to have some room. I use a firm spatula to smash them against the bottom of the collainder until all that is left in the collainder are seeds. Then I lift the collainder from the bowl below & scrape the pulp from underneath into another bowl. Washing my collainder after about 50 or so. After I have smashed all I had & the other bowl is full of pulp I return it to the fridge with Glad Press ‘n’ Seal on it & date it. I wait until the next day or 2 & there will be more moisture in the content to smear them easier. Then I use a bright lamp & sit it by my thin clear plastic cutting sheet (used side down.) (I have white countertops.) It makes it easier to see the “impurities”. I remove the bowl of pulp from the fridge & use the spatula to make a small pile of pulp. Then I use a smaller spatula to smear a bit of pulp thin. I use wooden skewers to pick out the skin bits & other things like the little black things in the berry other than the brown seeds. After this, I scrape it into a clear measuring that has a push up bottom & fill it with each smear, pressing it against the sides of the cup first & removing air pockets. I fill it a little more than full to make up for any air label a freezer bag & turn the bag upside down over the cup & slide the bag down. Push the pulp out of the measuring cup & flatten the pulp out in the bag & put it in the freezer to freeze flat & stack. I wear disposable plastic gloves to do everything….lol
        I hope you can get some ideas of what will work for you from what I do.
        At times, I’ve gotten more than 5 or 6 days behind, as in late Oct. I was getting close to 300/ day, so I gave those to the horses. Now that we’ he had a “killer frost” they don’t fall as often. So far I have frozen 40 1/4 cups! They will stay good in the freezer for 6-8 months, so you can just take a bag out & thaw it in some cold water in the sink & use it in a recipe.
        (If you get behind & can do them later or don’t have horses or wildlife to give them to….I filled a gallon freezer bag with some & may just cut it open for the horses in the summer or thaw it & work on it later.) If you give any to horses, you may limit the amount or remove the seeds. They say they can get bezoars (intestinal blockage), I assume from the seeds. I know they are whole in scat from the wildlife….lol.

    • 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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  1. […] Gathering Wild Persimmons | Jennifer’s KitchenSep 24, 2012 … Where to find wild persimmons and how to know when they are ripe. […]



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