One day, years ago, my mom was eating a persimmon. It may have been from my grandfather’s garden in Brooklyn; it may have been from a store—I’m not sure. Nonetheless, there was something about this persimmon that she didn’t want to let go. So she took a seed, and without much strategizing, plopped it in her garden and forgot about it.
I’m sure you’ve done this. I’ve buried my share of watermelon and apple seeds growing up, hoping for a magic beanstalk situation. In my mom’s case, it actually worked. She got a full-on persimmon tree a few years after she tossed that fateful seed. No one could really believe it, but even more unbelievable was how many persimmons this tree produced. My parents were nearly in tears by early November every year from persimmon overload.
If you’ve never seen a permission, they look like a cross between an apple and a tomato (but they’re not). It’s a strange, sticky sweet fruit that you wouldn’t want to eat every day. But my parents aren’t inventive cooks. They wouldn’t even put them in salads. They’d just eat them straight-up, overwhelmed and oversugared, gifting persimmon boxes to anyone who’d take them.
But we have to get over it. This year, we won’t be picking anything. Why? Oh, because my parents cut the tree down. On a whim. Without telling us. Cries were heard from Rhode Island to Manhattan to Brooklyn on the day we all heard the news. Which, I should add, only surfaced when Joe and I visited NJ this summer and noticed the void.
I’m not as angry as I sound. It was upsetting, but I understand. They’d developed a squirrel problem and couldn’t keep up with the rotting fruit. One massive November harvest wasn’t cutting it. There’s only so much two shorties in their sixties can put up with. I get it. Really, I do.
So this year, in honor of the tree that is no more, I’m bringing a persimmon loaf to Thanksgiving. And I wonder: if I’d learned to bake with them before, would the tree have been saved?! But really, it’s OK. It is.
If you make this be sure to use persimmons that are super, super ripe. So ripe that the pulp is almost a jelly. A few weeks in a paper bag will get them there. We lucked out and got a batch for free from our food coop. They arrived from the farm too ripe to put on the shelves. You’ll see–the pulp gets so soft that the lightest touch will break the skin. It’s a little gross, but worth the wait.
Persimmon Chocolate Chip Bread
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 teaspoons orange zest
2 large eggs
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup persimmon pulp
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Oil a 9 x 4-inch loaf pan.
In a small bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, salt, chocolate chips, and orange zest.
In a large bowl, mix the eggs, brown sugar, white sugar, and vegetable oil. Combine the baking soda and the persimmon pulp, then add to the sugar mixture. Fold in the flour mixture. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 75 to 80 minutes. It’s tough to check for doneness with a toothpick since it will just come out chocolately. But give it a try—if all you see is chocolate, it’s done.