We’d often walk home from school as youngsters down a rural two-lane road in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. A persimmon tree grew along the fence.
The fruit would ripen in the fall. I guess we were curious, as all young folk are, and the ripening fruit seemed tempting. I remember one particular day we decided to pick and eat several of the fruit. I still can remember the pungent, astringent taste as we ran the rest of the way home to get the taste out of our mouths. That was the last time I ate persimmons for many years.
So I was fascinated to discover that persimmons grew in Louisiana. My Cajun/Italian next door neighbor, Essie, would drive to the country on the weekends to her camp in French Settlement and return with an assortment of fresh produce. She’d love to call me up and say “come to the fence between our houses, I have something to give you.” Of course, I could never say “no.” So occasionally in the fall I’d receive a basket of persimmons.
And what could I do with the persimmons?I discovered that the persimmons cultivated in Louisiana are Oriental Persimmons. They are larger and much milder that native persimmons . As they ripen, the fruit becomes even more sweet and soft. They are tasty when eaten raw,such as added to fruit salads; or cooked in desserts and puddings.
I even planted a persimmon tree. It has flourished over the years in my backyard and often results in a bountiful crop; enough for both the birds and our family. It has given many opportunities to figure out ways to cook and use the fruit.
Persimmon Upside Down Cake is one such recipe. For this cake, I adapted a old recipe for Pineapple Upside Down Cake. The cake is easy to make, kind of a “dump it cake mix.” After baking and inverted, the persimmons and glaze on the bottom serve as the topping..
NOTES ON PERSIMMONS
- Persimmons are available in grocery stores in the fall, so keep a look out for them; you don’t have to have a neighbor who goes to the country to pick them. Supermarket persimmons are probably still firm. Let the persimmons ripen at room temperature on your kitchen counter until soft and deep orange. I place a banana or apple in the container along with the persimmons. The ethylene released by these fruits helps the ripening process.
- Persimmons are a good source of the precursors for Vitamin A They also contain Vitamin C, magnesium. In this cake recipe, they take the place of an egg and some of the oil, reducing the fat content in the cake.