Edible ornaments | Sow There!

The persimmon is easy to admire on dim and gloomy days. When most deciduous trees have lost their leaves, the peach-colored fruit hangs like ornaments on otherwise empty branches. Nature is kind and brings us citrus, kiwi and pomegranate, just when the vitamin-rich fruits of summer and fall have slipped away. The persimmon is technically a berry, but I don’t think most folks are interested in hearing about that.

As an edible, I must say, I have given the persimmon very little thought. People offer them to me, and I simply say no. I don’t really know what to do with them.

I know, I know. You can bake with them. You can also bake with zucchini, which means hiding something healthful inside a mix of brown sugar, butter and flour. However, there are many other fruits I would rather eat, like apples, which last months in the refrigerator.

When I think of baking with persimmons, or frying up a pan of fried green tomatoes, I think that these foods became popular due to times of near starvation. Those “family recipes,” began with ancestors who had nothing else to eat and needed to fry, bake or hide the foods that they had on hand.

We live in a modern age, in California, with refrigerators and flash-freezing techniques. Quaint things like mushed up persimmons just don’t make it into the pies sold at Costco.

With all of these ideas shoved somewhere in my mind, I gladly accepted a batch of persimmon cookies during a recent visit with Betty Ann in her backyard.

On this mid-fall day, the prominent feature was the ornamental persimmon trees. These trees were really working hard. There were so many persimmons I was surprised Betty Ann didn’t prop up the limbs with boards to help support the weight.

I admired how Betty Ann keeps all of her fruit trees trimmed to about six or eight feet tall so you don’t need to risk your life on a ladder to gather the bounty. She also has painted the trunks of each tree a bright color, which simply shows she knows how to have fun.

“She must have a gardener,” I said as Jim and I put footprints in the lawn.

“Nope, this is all Betty Ann,” Jim stated.

“How does she find time for it all?”

“She never sits down.”

Betty Ann offered us freshly-baked persimmon cookies and dried persimmons sprinkled with cinnamon. Apparently this was persimmon day. Of course I said yes. I’m glad I was polite, because I soon learned that they are really tasty.

In fact, Betty gave me a rather large plastic bag filled with cookies — so soft and tender, made with brown sugar. I ate one, demurely, as we sat and talked. As soon as I got home I ate all that were in the bag.

When we finished the garden tour, Betty Ann asked if I wanted to take some persimmons home. By this time I was all in.

Betty’s dried persimmons were just on the slightly-chewy side. She showed me how thick to slice them (about a quarter-inch, in rounds) and to run the dehydrator at 130 degrees for 10 hours.

When my friend Michael and I dashed off to the coast, I brought the fruit and my dehydrator to the Air BNB. It gets dark early these days, and it didn’t take us that long to do all the slicing while singing song around the kitchen tables. I didn’t have cinnamon on hand, and we were already in our pajamas, so I sprinkled the fruit slices with the chili and lime seasoning I had brought for the popcorn.

Not bad.

The fruit inside a persimmon has a delightful star shape in the center. When the persimmon slices dry, they’re easy to stack like crackers. Every once in a while, we found a stray persimmon seed. Of course I’ll try to plant them. Maybe someday I’ll let go of my fruit prejudices and make persimmon cookies.

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