My backyard persimmon tree is loaded with fruit this year. Enough for me, the birds, the squirrels and some to give away. This has me thinking of ideas for persimmon recipes including a variation on a cheesecake and persimmon salsa. I have never known what kind of persimmon tree is growing in my backyard. My curiosity for answers took me on an adventure to a unique persimmon grove in the heart of Baton Rouge, shown here.
I called several gardening stores to inquire about my tree as well as the county extension agent for horticulture of lawns and gardening, Bob Souvestre. He suggested that I bring by one of my persimmons to the Burden Museum and Gardens to see if I could match it to a variety growing in their persimmon grove. And so I discovered a real treasure in Baton Rouge and found that I have an Hachiya persimmon. It is an astringent variety.
The crazy thing is that I drive by the persimmon grove at the Burden Museum and Gardens to and from my job every day I work. I never knew this place existed. In the middle of Baton Rouge, surrounded by urban city, sits a 440 acre serene garden and farm. It is tucked away from view of the Interstate and surrounding streets. It has magnificent live oak trees and crepe myrtles, walking trails, horticulture gardens, a rose garden, Rural Life Museum and a research farm.
The persimmon grove has two rows of persimmon trees, each a different variety. There must be at least 24 varieties. I was ecstatic walking through the grove — like a kid in a candy store! I never knew there were so many persimmon types! Here is a Tamopan persimmon tree, with the unusual shape like an acorn. It is astringent, too.
About the Burden Museum and Gardens
From the late 1800’s to 1900’s, Windrush plantation was a working farm owned by the Burden family. Beginning in the 1960’s, the remaining Burden family began to bequeath the farm and land to LSU and LSU AgCenter with the stipulation that it never be developed commercially. It was to be used for horticultural and agronomic research. Once in the countryside, the urban city has swallowed it up. Family member and horticulturist, Steele Burden, designed and planted much of what is on the farm. In addition to the persimmons, I saw a large satsuma and citrus fruit orchard. What a wonderful gift to the community of Baton Rouge!
Bayou Persimmon Mud Pie
Here is my backyard persimmon tree, loaded with persimmons.
The Baton Rouge Green Organization held a recipe contest last fall with dishes made from fruit and nuts that grow on Louisiana trees. This was in conjunction with their annual tree sale. I received second place for my recipe for Persimmon Upside Down Cake, This year I have a rich and delectable recipe: Bayou Persimmon Mud Pie. It uses persimmons and Louisiana pecans.
Before you say no way–that is atrocious–don’t let the name distract you. My dessert is a take-off on a cheesecake with a rich pecan shortbread crust. You may recognize it as a variation of the southern dish, Mississippi Mud Pie, with layers of cream cheese, chocolate pudding and whipped cream.
In this recipe, the first layer is a pecan shortbread crust. Layered on this is a cream cheese and whipped topping filling. Then vanilla pudding is mixed with persimmon pulp and spices. The top layer is a spread of whipped topping garnished with pecans and persimmon slices.
This dessert is delicious and the persimmons give it just a bit of pungent, yet sweet “punch.” I am pleased with my recipe adaptation! I am looking forward to the next Baton Rouge Green Organization tree sale and recipe contest.
Types of persimmons
I learned that there are several types of persimmons — both astringent and non-astringent. The Hachiya persimmon is an astringent variety and can be picked green. But if you try to eat the fruit when green — wow, your mouth will pucker. The fruit will ripen when left to sit on your kitchen counter for several days to weeks. When ripe, the skin becomes soft and translucent (left), the interior is a gelatinous pulp and the persimmon is mild and sweet. Hence, these persimmons are best for cakes, puddings and sauces. Here are several fruit in various stages of ripening along with the ripe pulp.
The Fuyu persimmon is a non-astringent variety and is becoming more popular. It looks like a squashed tomato. Fuyu persimmons taste more like a crisp apple or pear and can be peeled and can be eaten any time. They keep their shape and are good for baking, salsas, salads. They are easier to transport and hence are more likely to be found in produce markets of grocery stores. Here are some from a friend’s tree (left) and the Burden grove.
All persimmons are high in nutritional value including potassium, Vitamin C and Vitamin A, fiber and antioxidants. This is a very healthy fruit to include in your diet!
My phone call to the gardening stores took me on real adventure. I feel like I have found unique a treasure in Baton Rouge. And I am becoming quite a persimmon expert! Now, for more persimmon recipes.
Bayou Persimmon Mud Pie
- 1/2 cup pecan pieces
- 1 cup flour
- 2 Tbsp powdered sugar
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) real butter
- 1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup confectioners sugar
- 1 cup Cool Whip, thawed
- 2 (4 oz) boxes vanilla instant pudding mix
- 2 cups cold milk
- 1 cup ripe persimmon pulp (2 Hachiya persimmons)
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- 1 cup Cool Whip, thawed
- firm persimmon slices, garnish
- whole pecan pieces, garnish
Instructions and Steps
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees,
- Place pecan pieces on a baking sheet, toast in oven for about 5 minutes. Immediately remove from baking sheet and chop to fine pieces, using a food processor. Set aside.
- In same food processor bowl, add flour, powdered sugar and butter which is cut into pieces. Pulse and processor until the butter is blended with the flour. This will be crumbly. Add the pecan pieces and process just a few seconds.
- Pour this into a round 9″ spring-form cake pan and press into the bottom of pan.
- Bake in oven about 20 – 25 minutes until browned. Remove and completely cool.
- In medium mixing bowl, whip together the cream cheese and powdered sugar until well blended. Fold in thawed Cool Whip. Spread onto cooled crust.
- In same mixing bowl add vanilla pudding mixes and 2 cups cold milk. Mix on medium speed for 2 minutes until thickened.
- In a small bowl, combine the persimmon pulp, cinnamon and ginger. Fold into the vanilla pudding. Spread onto cream cheese mixture.
- Place in refrigerator to set.
- When ready to serve, spread a layer of Cool Whip on top, garnish with whole pecan pieces and persimmon slices. Carefully remove from spring-form pan.
Enjoy this cheesecake-type recipe. A good way to use Louisiana persimmons!
Burden Museum and Gardens. discoverburden.com
What’s In a Name?, by Nalini Raghavan, Country Roads, March 2014. countryroadsmagazine.com/getaways/outdoor-adventures/what-s-in-a-name
Horticultural Pioneers. tclf.org/pioneer/steele-burden