Every year, it seems like persimmons start to fall earlier and earlier. They've been plummeting from Louise Briggs backyard tree for over a week already. She's constructed an elaborate net to catch the little orange globes before they hit the ground.
"It's silent once it hits the net. The adorable sound is it hitting leaves and it goes down. Like a pinball machine," she says. "My persimmon pinball machine."
On this week's show, Louise talks about the agony and the ecstasy of sharing her backyard with a 60-foot persimmon tree.
A Persimmon Surprise
The Briggs moved to southern Indiana in the winter of 2010. They found a house they wanted to buy, "And the realtor said to me, 'Oh and there's a persimmon tree in the backyard, too.' I'm from Boston. What do I know from persimmons."
Come spring, she decided to search out this persimmon tree on her property. She knew what to look for -- bark shaped like tiles. "I went from tree to tree no, not that one. No, not that one," she says. "I looked at the big one in the middle of the yard, and I thought surely not that one." Yes, that one. The bark was a picture-perfect example of persimmon a tree.
The previous owners had just let the fruit fall and rot on the ground, killing all the grass around the tree. When the persimmons started falling in late-summer, Louise quickly realized that wasn't a good option for them.
"We knew we had to net them because over the course of a few weeks, my little dog became a pudgy little dog. We realized, we looked out in the back, and when we put him out, he would be out there eating persimmons, which are high-calorie. And he was having a good time," she says.
She spent a couple hours every day collecting persimmons from the net in 10-gallon bins. She removed the caps and cleaned off the leaves. It was a chore. Every couple weeks she would throw a Perpetual Persimmon Pulping Party, where friends would help her process the fruit into 2-cup bags. That year's haul by the numbers -- almost forty 10-gallon bins of fruit harvested, processed into over one hundred 2-cup portions.
Fruit For All
Last year, Louise put the call out to locals -- free persimmons for anyone willing to put the work in! About a dozen community members met at her house for that first persimmon party. Louise gave a tutorial on using the net. Push the persimmons from the various parts of the net to the center. Pull down two of the poles to reveal a hole in the net, and out plummets the fruit.
In the kitchen, everyone pulls off the caps and rinses the fruit. Once they're cleaned, it's over to Louise's motorized food mill. The pulp oozes out one side, the seeds and skin splurt out the other.
Everyone left with some pulp to make pudding, bread and glaze for donuts. There's plenty more where this came from, Louise says. Every day for the several weeks, someone from the community will come and take her persimmons away. And Louise couldn't be happier.
I couldn't help but ask if she regretted buying this house with this tree, and having to shoulder the annual duty that comes with it.
"I won't say that I haven't had moments," she says. "But no, I would miss it. I would really miss it." And then swish-swish-swish goes another persimmon pinball plummeting from the tree down to the net.
More: What can you make with persimmons? Here's a traditional pudding recipe. Another sweet treat is persimmon panna cotta. We have savory recipes for chutney and stuffing. And, make some persimmon jam now to enjoy when the trees are covered in snow.
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