Late fall days in the Southern San Joaquin Valley of California can be gray and leaning toward foggy. Driving down the back roads, you get the impression of color being drained from all vegetation not gone dormant. At least, that is the impression until you come upon a persimmon tree, bare of leaves yet covered with dead-ripe fruit.
The common persimmon variety here is the size of an orange. If they were not covered with a layer of dust, the persimmons would blind you with their shiny skin and red-orange color. The visual impact of these trees is surreal. An added note of fantasy comes with the intricate grey-green caps holding the persimmons to the branches. The first time you experience this selection of nature’s artwork, you hardly want to disturb it by picking the fruit.
Make friends with someone who has such a persimmon tree in their yard and find yourself the beneficiary of more ripe persimmons than you ever dreamed. This is a blessing and a challenge. At this point the persimmons need to be processed…pronto! They are loaded with sugar and flavor, begging to be consumed or preserved for later.
It’s so easy! Here’s the drill.
A neighbor of ours is from Armenia and we excitedly share food ideas — we both have an interest in food and vastly different experiences with it. When we heard she had a system for drying persimmons, we stopped our own kitchen project mid-stream and headed to her house, hoping to catch her before she returned to Los Angeles for the week. We walked into her multi-purpose room and gasped. Her shaded west window was a vision of fall abundance. She had 200 whole persimmons hanging to dry.
Amanda and I squealed just a bit and got instructions:
How will you use your dried bounty? The lion’s share of our dried persimmons get eaten right out of the jar. They are some of the best dessert nature provides and are exceptional in lunch boxes. You can chop them and use them as the dried fruit component in sweet bread and other recipes calling for items like raisins. Some traditional cultures make a tea from them — they simply pour boiling water over a couple of dried persimmon slices and let it infuse.