Persimmons are synonymous with Fall in the Ozarks, as the small globes turn orange and soften, signaling the time for the first frost, the onset of deer season (deer love persimmons and gather under the trees to gobble them up) and the sharing of persimmon seed weather forecasts. You may have separated and split the seeds (pliers are the tool of choice for this, not the teeth) to see if the center contains the shape of a fork, which according to folklore means a mild winter with fluffy snow; a spoon, which signals heavy snows that will have to be scooped; or the knife, which indicates bitterly cold weather with winds that cut like a knife. Are the forecasts accurate? Sure, part of the time!
While persimmons are one of nature's sweetest wild fruits, they have very large seeds that make the fruit-to-seed ratio not worth extracting for most people. Yet in the days before sugar was easily obtainable, that was not the case. Persimmons were prized as a source of sweetness by Native Americans and pioneers living off the land, and persimmon pudding and persimmon breads were fall delicacies. But then as now, you don't want to harvest them before they are truly ripe, usually after the first frost, as the astringency of the tannins in unripe persimmons can cause the "persimmon pucker."
At Persimmon Hill Farm, we gather and press the ripe wild persimmons our farm is named after, and extract the pulp through hand sieving. It takes about 65 pounds of pulp to make a batch of our Persimmon Butter, available in our farm store, at regional gift shops or online. It's a lot of work, but it results in a truly unique spread. One way to enjoy the flavors of fall is in these soft and yummy Persimmon Butter Cookies. Find the recipe here.