When to Pick Persimmons and How to Preserve Them

Victor A. Crowley explains how to tell if persimmons are ripe, the best time to pick persimmons, and ways to preserve this unique fruit.

  • Persimmon tree and fruit

    Photo by Adobestock/Pixy_nook
  • Dried and preserved persimmons are known as persimmon leather.
    Photo by Adobestock/James3035
  • Persimmon tree
    How to harvest and prepare another bountiful "free for the eating" crop: Persimmons.

  • Persimmon tree and fruit
  • Persimmon tree

From mid-September, through Christmas and into the new year, tons and tons of a particularly delicate and delicious wild fruit go to waste—as far as humans are concerned—over a tremendous area of rural America. From the fence rows of Appalachia to the Ozarks, all through the southern Gulf states and even into the milder, fruit-growing regions of Michigan and the Great Lakes country the woods and roadsides, abandoned fields and eroded wastelands now covered with second-growth brush are dotted and lined with . . . wild persimmons in full fruit.

When are Persimmons Ripe?

A persimmon tree burdened with ripe fruit is really something to see! Every branch and twig and stem may be crowded with the luscious golden globes of goodness. Not a yellow-gold, but more of a flushed apricot with pinkish overtones.

It's strange that most of this bounty is never harvested because everyone likes juicy, aromatic, dead-ripe persimmons cooled by morning dew and bursting with sweet flavor. And why shouldn't a persimmon be good? The pulp contains as much as 34 percent fruit sugar, making it perhaps the sweetest of all nature's gifts.

It is this very sweetness, however, that limits the use of the fresh fruit because each luscious morsel is like a rich bonbon and only two or three persimmons are enough to cloy the appetite.

There's another reason so few persimmons are gathered: The fruit is edible—and only edible—when it's reached a stage of full ripeness so fragile that it almost melts in the hand and a fall from the tree to hard ground can make it splatter. Really ripe persimmons are about as delicate and difficult to handle as a soap bubble. If you cheat and pick one even a little bit firm and unready, it'll be as bitter as gall and cause your lips to pucker into a twenty-four hour kiss.

What to do? What to do?

9/19/2020 9:27:35 AM

To those who comment about the offensive language.... This was written in 1970. Thankfully, we™’ve all come a long way in our thinking since then.

11/8/2019 4:53:29 PM

Thanks for this gift of prose and nostalgia from 1970. Glad we’ve evolved from how we spoke of our First Nation comrades but otherwise a really nice take on an often overlooked fruit!

10/26/2018 4:42:27 PM

I love persimmons especially KAKHI Variety, the one described here by the author. Every year I gave them away while still firm and save some for me. When they are as red and soft as a ripened tomato, it's ready to be eaten. I love the sweet flavor and usually mixed it with my favorite cereal, coconut ice cream or fruit salad. I usually pick them during the month of October when the fruit turns orange and let them ripened at room temperature for a few weeks while it serve as a beautiful arrangement on my countertop. Love it.



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