Way down yonder in the pawpaw patch

Our "new" house came with a big persimmon tree in back. So far, the fruits are hard as rocks. Does anybody know what persimmons are good for and how you prepare them?

— Bruce L., Medford.

Bruce, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Throw in a rock. Throw in some persimmons. When the rock is tender, your persimmons are done.

No, but seriously, there are several kinds of persimmon. The American persimmon, or pawpaw,See Oct. 27 Since You Asked for clarification was found growing on the East Coast by early settlers. What you probably have, however, is the kaki, which comes from Asia. The kaki, of which there are various cultivars, was introduced to California in the 1800s. You can see lots of them in the wine country north of the San Francisco Bay Area.

The fruits right now are full of mouth-puckering tannins, but those will become inert later.

Look for your persimmons to ripen in December. If a hard frost knocks all those big leaves off your tree, the fruits will remain like bright orange lanterns for the holidays.

The fruits will be ready to eat when they are quite soft. Most folks say they are best eaten raw — imagine a cross between plums, honey, apricots, pumpkins and mangoes — but a persimmon fancier of our acquaintance swears by drying them by the fireplace into fruit leather.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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