Late fall days in the Southern San Joaquin Valley of California can be gray and leaning toward foggy. Driving down the back roads, you get the impression of color being drained from all vegetation not gone dormant. At least, that is the impression until you come upon a persimmon tree, bare of leaves yet covered with dead-ripe fruit.
The common persimmon variety here is the size of an orange. If they were not covered with a layer of dust, the persimmons would blind you with their shiny skin and red-orange color. The visual impact of these trees is surreal. An added note of fantasy comes with the intricate grey-green caps holding the persimmons to the branches. The first time you experience this selection of nature’s artwork, you hardly want to disturb it by picking the fruit.
Make friends with someone who has such a persimmon tree in their yard and find yourself the beneficiary of more ripe persimmons than you ever dreamed. This is a blessing and a challenge. At this point the persimmons need to be processed…pronto! They are loaded with sugar and flavor, begging to be consumed or preserved for later.
Dried Persimmon Slices
A quick and easy method to put persimmons away for future use is to slice them into rounds and pop them in your dehydrator. Talk about fun snacks and travel food!
It’s so easy! Here’s the drill.
- Identify the persimmons that are soft, but not squishy. (The mushy ones can be frozen as pulp to use in smoothies and in baking.)
- Wash the fruit and dry it. Use a hand-towel for drying. This removes any stubborn dust. Enjoy the color and shine! I often will hold the persimmons for a day or two at this stage to just savor the beauty.
- Slice through the top end of the persimmon to remove the cap. Caps will not just pull off unless the persimmon is mushy and then it can be a mess. Slicing is the more efficient way to deal with the cap.
- Slice the persimmons into rounds that are 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Try to make the slices equally thick so they will dry in an equal amount of time.
- Place the slices on the racks of a food dehydrator and set the temperature to somewhere around 115 degrees. You could dry the persimmon rounds in the oven if you have one with a pilot light. Ours stays warm enough to accomplish the task, just not as quickly as the dehydrator.
- Check the persimmon slices in 24 hours and every couple of hours thereafter. You want the slices to be dry like leather, not brittle like a cracker.
- Store your dried persimmon slices in a tightly covered container in a cool spot. Freezing also works if you have the extra room in your freezer. We’ve kept dried persimmons in the pantry for up to 8 months and then ran out. I can’t vouch for how much longer they may keep!
Drying Whole Persimmons
A neighbor of ours is from Armenia and we excitedly share food ideas — we both have an interest in food and vastly different experiences with it. When we heard she had a system for drying persimmons, we stopped our own kitchen project mid-stream and headed to her house, hoping to catch her before she returned to Los Angeles for the week. We walked into her multi-purpose room and gasped. Her shaded west window was a vision of fall abundance. She had 200 whole persimmons hanging to dry.
Amanda and I squealed just a bit and got instructions:
- Wash and dry the persimmons.
- Peel them but leave the stem area intact.
- Hang them from the stem in an area out of direct sun.
- Allow them to dry for at least a month. Test them for dryness — they may need longer in your location.
Using Your Dried Persimmons
How will you use your dried bounty? The lion’s share of our dried persimmons get eaten right out of the jar. They are some of the best dessert nature provides and are exceptional in lunch boxes. You can chop them and use them as the dried fruit component in sweet bread and other recipes calling for items like raisins. Some traditional cultures make a tea from them — they simply pour boiling water over a couple of dried persimmon slices and let it infuse.