Appalachian Food

Apples and Persimmons in Appalachia

jars of applesauce in canner

“Most country people had juicy apple and persimmon trees on their land. Mother canned applesauce by quart dozens, which lasted us until the next apple crop. Applesauce was eaten warmed with butter and spices and was particularly good with pork chops at supper. It was used in many other ways, such as in the Apple Brown Betty, pies, and cakes.

The persimmon tree was a favorite of mine. It stood at the top of the hill that led down to our house and was remote enough to sit under and daydream whilst eating the fruit ripe off the tree. Bright orange in color, squishy and succulent in the mouth, persimmons made a fine spiced pudding.”

—Jean Boone Benfield – “Mountain Born”


The late hard frost got a lot of the apples in my neck of the woods. Makes me extra thankful for the applesauce that’s still sitting on my canning shelves. Of course if some apples happen to come my way I’ll be happy to turn them into goodness in a jar 🙂

There used to be a persimmon tree at the bottom of our driveway…but that was in the days before our driveway was here. I need to explore the area and see if there’s any descendants of the tree I remember.


Last night’s video: A Traditional Appalachian Meal

Tipper

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21 Comments

  • Reply
    Luann Sewell Waters
    September 14, 2021 at 6:32 pm

    clicked “post comment’ before I told you name of her cookbook. Persimmon Recipes; it is shown in the YouTube clip. I haven’t been able to find it on line. Plan to call the Mitchell Chamber of Commerce to ask if anyone still sells it. If you go to the Mitchel Persimmon Festival site, there is a list of recent years’ winning recipes. The festival is from Sept. 18-25 this year according to their site.
    I don’t expect you’ll want to post all this, feel free to edit, please!!

  • Reply
    Luann Sewell Waters
    September 14, 2021 at 6:12 pm

    A couple of recipes to try listed below. Bear Wallow Books has a cookbook: Old-Fashioned Persimmon Recipes. Their website is: bearwallowbooks.com. Also, there had been a company in Mitchell, Indiana that sold persimmon pulp, but they quit in 1998. Dymple Ruth Green and her husband owned the company. There is a YouTube interview of her from 2008 (she died in 2012). The link is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29N3kgiVpPY. It’s under 5 minutes in length.
    She did a cookbook

    Persimmon Bread
    Sift together:
    2 c. flour
    1 t. baking powder
    1/2 t. salt
    1 t. baking soda
    1 t. cinnamon
    1/2 t. nutmeg
    1/2 t. allspice
    Cream together, and gradually stir into the above ingredients:
    1/2 c. margarine
    3/4 c. sugar
    2 eggs, beaten
    1 t. vanilla
    Add last:
    1 c. persimmon pulp
    1/2 c. chopped pecans

    Mix well. Pour batter into a well-greased and floured 9”x5”x3” loaf pan and let set for
    a few minutes (10 min. or so) before baking. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes at 375 degrees.

    Spiced Persimmon Cookies
    1 c. shortening
    1 c. sugar
    1 egg
    1 c. persimmon pulp, fresh or frozen & thawed
    2 c. flour, 50/50 whole wheat & white
    1 t. baking soda
    1 t. baking powder
    1/2 t. salt
    1/2 t. cinnamon
    1/2 t. nutmeg
    1/2 t. allspice
    3/4 c. chopped pecans
    1/2 c. raisins

    Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cream shortening, sugar and egg together, set aside. Mix dry ingredients together & stir into creamed ingredients to make a stiff dough. Add pecans & raisins. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets, spacing about 1 inch apart. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Makes 40 to 50 cookies.
    (adapted from Wild Foods Field Guide and Cookbook by Billy Joe Tatum)

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    August 30, 2021 at 1:16 pm

    Tipper–I’m surprised no one has mentioned that wild persimmons come in male and female versions, as do hollies and few other trees. That means a planted seed or a transplanted seedling won’t necessarily translate to a fruit-laden tree a few years down the road. There may be a way to determine tree sex prior to bearing age but I’m unaware of it.

    However, I can heartily recommend planting a couple of Oriental persimmons. They bear fruit after just a few years and the size of the fruit is probably 20 times that of wild persimmons (and they have few if any seeds). I can’t tell any difference whatsoever in taste and the trees are basically care free. Once I got them past the first year or two with a bit of tender love I’ve done absolutely nothing other than harvest fruit and cut away any small limbs which happen to die. I probably get two bushels or so of fruit from my pair of trees in an average year (it will be more this year), and some of it goes to waste because I’m too trifling (and too old) to climb up a sizeable step ladder to get ‘simmons from the uppermost limbs. There are a number of varieties, some self-fertile and others not. Check before ordering.

    Beyond that, I would hazard a guess that within a couple of years you will begin to get fruit on your tree. Oddly enough, I can’t even give it away here. I think too many folks harbor visions of having once bitten into a green persimmon which linger, as Rita Speers rightly suggest, forever.

  • Reply
    Ray Presley
    August 30, 2021 at 11:16 am

    My favorite fresh fruits are concord grapes and purple plums. But, for the best taste, you have to catch them at the peak of maturity/ripeness. But we always picked them for canning, jams and such before they were fully ripened. Good (tasty!) memories indeed!

  • Reply
    Ray Presley
    August 30, 2021 at 11:08 am

    Yeah, and not fond memories at that! As kids, we could barely wait for fruit to ripen before plucking some. But we paid a high price for it by having to remain within sprinting distance of the little house out back! It’s totally unbelievable how fast it works on you…and works on you…and works on you. No Ex-Lax needed when a tree like this is nearby.

  • Reply
    Gigi
    August 30, 2021 at 10:54 am

    I remember as a child, we had a persimmon tree beside a creek. I remember trying one of them and I didn’t like it. It wasn’t all the way ripe either.But I did try one that was and I still didn’t care for em. I love apples , specially with a little cinnamon and a biscuit.

  • Reply
    AWGRIFF
    August 30, 2021 at 9:04 am

    Tipper, you should be able to find a persimmon somewhere in the area. Possums plant those seeds everywhere.
    I planted an Asian persimmon last year like you did and mine is growing good, hope yours is too.

    • Reply
      Tipper
      August 30, 2021 at 10:01 am

      AW-Mine is still growing too 🙂

  • Reply
    Shirl
    August 30, 2021 at 9:00 am

    The persimmon trees are so loaded this year that I’m afraid the limbs will break like they did on my peach and pear trees. The fruit is half the size it normally is.
    A realtor friend asked if she could pick up a bag of persimmons to make some persimmon bars. I had never heard of eating them any way except to pop a ripe one in my mouth while walking along the road when I was a child. My grandson and I have been using persimmons to predict the winter weather for years. They lied last year. We opened about six and they all had spoons in them. He was excited about getting that many snow days. Turns out Covid gave him a whole school year he got to stay home.

  • Reply
    dee
    August 30, 2021 at 8:42 am

    Your supper looked really good to me as I sure love fresh vegetables. My Mother seemed to know all the trees in the country side. She grew up in TN and MS. One day my husband was driving down a country road in SE PA when Mother said “Stop the car.” My husband stopped, she got out and said “that is a beautiful persimmon tree and it is loaded with fruit.” I grew up in NE Ill so I didn’t know what a persimmon looked like but it sure made my Mother’s day to find that beautiful persimmon tree. I know it brought back many sweet memories to my Mother.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    August 30, 2021 at 8:23 am

    I think you are feeling the change of season. I am to. Fall is creeping up on us. Here the poplar leaves are turning yellow, goldenrod is trying to bloom and there are sometimes morning fogs down on the creek. My thoughts have been turning to apples and away from iced tea, so much so that we went to the Mennonite bakery Friday and got an apple pie. It is shrinking rapidly.

    I guess folks with apple orchards were hard hit all over the southeast US at least. One orchard I know of up near Greeneville, Tn says their crop will be about 25% of other years. Our one tree here did very poorly. That’s both nature and the nature of growing things. There will be good years and bad years. As the bible says, “thou knowest not what shall be”.

    No persimmons here. My neighbor had one on the corner of his farm lane but he took it out to get better turning room.

  • Reply
    Brad Byers
    August 30, 2021 at 7:56 am

    My mom makes persimmon pudding for most family get togethers. She gathers her own persimmons, renders the pulp, and makes the pudding from scratch. Here’s the kicker – all this is from a persimmon tree she planted herself years ago! She’s 86 and still going strong.

    • Reply
      Tipper
      August 30, 2021 at 8:51 am

      Brad-that is just wonderful 🙂

  • Reply
    Margie G for grapes
    August 30, 2021 at 7:51 am

    Let me give you hope. I found what looked to be a tiny grape vine wedged between a front porch and house in about 2016 over where I grew up and was messing around one day. I plucked it from the dirt wondering if it was a grape from my childhood yard. I planted it and this year it gave Concord grapes as poppable, sweet and tangy as I recollect eating as a kid. I also have an ornamental persimmon which gives red blooms in spring. Just keep going, dreaming and believing all the while in the wonder of what God is doing. I wish you much success finding maybe even a persimmon pit to plant!!!!

    • Reply
      Linda
      August 30, 2021 at 8:06 am

      Love this!

  • Reply
    Don
    August 30, 2021 at 7:32 am

    I picked up a “thought to be” persimmon tree from a questionable nurseryman about 7 years ago, brought it home and planted it, and had decided more than once to yank it up to toss on the brush pile because it had amounted to nada, making me think the man at the nursery must have been mistaken about it’s origin. This year we’ve had an unusually hot dry summer here in the Shenandoah valley but……. that persimmon tree is going to have to have at least a couple limbs supported or I fear they’ll break off as the fruit reaches maturity, it’s that loaded.
    Enough meandering, I was wondering how to use some of those persimmons other than feeding the local deer population. That spiced pudding makes me look forward to their turning orange and being ready to eat.

  • Reply
    Betsy Wilson
    August 30, 2021 at 7:05 am

    Ripe persimmons was a favorite treat to my Grandmother. Grandaddy would always go and fetch her some to eat. I do remember that you couldn’t eat them with any pleasure until they were FULLY ripe. The grapes I remember growing wild were “possum” grapes, real small grapes that were dark blue and were very sweet. These were used to make grape dumplings. The others we called Muskedine grapes. They were the ones used for jelly and jam. They were bigger than the first variety , but not nearly as large and beautiful as the ones your brother grew. She also made green grape cobbler or dumplings with green grapes that was very tart (sweet and sour) and delicious. Your meals do look so good! Really brings back memories of being raised in rural Okla.

  • Reply
    Rita Speers
    August 30, 2021 at 6:43 am

    Eating a green persimmon is something you will remember the rest of your life….

    • Reply
      Ray Presley
      August 30, 2021 at 11:07 am

      Yeah, and not fond memories at that! As kids, we could barely wait for fruit to ripen before plucking some. But we paid a high price for it by having to remain within sprinting distance of the little house out back! It’s totally unbelievable how fast it works on you…and works on you…and works on you. No Ex-Lax needed when a tree like this is nearby.

  • Reply
    Larry Paul Eddings
    August 30, 2021 at 6:28 am

    We are blessed to have several very large persimmon trees near our home. They bear heavily and I especially enjoy their fruit in the late fall once it has been frosted on and is fully ripe.

  • Reply
    Jimk
    August 30, 2021 at 6:19 am

    Brings back memories of talking friends into tasting a green persimmon before the first frost, usually great fun until they recovered.

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