Sunday, October 5, 2008

Persimmons and hickory nuts in the Catoctins

I visited my parents today. They live out in the woods near Sabillasville, in the Catoctin Mountains. Dad and I took a walk.

"Are there persimmons on the tree this year?," I asked. "Can't you see them?," said Dad, "the little yellow globes everywhere?" At first I couldn't- the sun was in my eyes. But then we got a little closer and he was right. The tree had more persimmons on it than I had ever seen before. "Why don't you eat one?," he asked, with an evil twinkle in his eye.

"I'm not falling for that again," I told him.

Some years back Dad and I went to the persimmon tree and he convinced me to eat one because they are delicious. So of course I ate one. Then my mouth turned inside out and I salivated uncontrollably and he laughed like a nut and said, "my Father did that to me too!"

Back to today...Dad walked to the tree and said, "no, really, they're delicious. I've been eating them every time I go to the mailbox."

"Yeah right. You eat one," I said. "I'll watch you." After watching him eat half of a persimmon I made him give me the other half. It was delicious. So what gives?

Native persimmons are usually inedible until after the first good freeze. But if they fall off the tree before that and are translucent then you can eat them. So be really careful about eating them right now. You might end up drooling for about an hour. It's miserable and interminable.

I have a few friends who love the native persimmons and they have their favorite trees. Local foraging knowledge is a very special thing that people share with each other as a sign of affection and trust. If you want to try persimmons, there is a big one next to a parking lot at Utica Park. I can't give away any of the other locations or I will lose a very good friend.

I also made Dad take me to the shellbark hickory trees, where I collected a small bag. He couldn't understand why I would bother with them because the nuts are so small and hard to get out of the walnut-like shells. But that makes them all the more precious. Hickory nuts are kind of like walnuts in taste but have their own flavor. I really love to eat native foods. There's something wholesome and essential to the experience of gathering. There's food in the woods and it is good.


Elin said...

persimmon pudding at craft night perhaps?

smoo said...

That sounds delicious. Now that we've had a good freeze I am not afraid of the persimmons anymore.