Persimmon Predictor

Folklore says the inside of native persimmon seeds can predict winter weather.
Alas, Folklore doesn’t say *how* to slice the seeds, which can be tricky.
Look for the shape of the embryo (and future “seed leaves”): 

  • Fork = mild
  • Spoon = snow
  • Knife = “cutting” cold

The method is as accurate as Woolly-bear caterpillar predictions, which is to say, not at all.
Both are fun, but with persimmons, you get to lick your fingers.

***

If you haven’t tasted a native persimmon yet, there may still be fruit on or under trees. They can linger on twigs through December, and if they get dry, think of them as “fruit leather” treats.
Even windfall fruit can usually be rescued. The fruit is delicious in hand; and in baked goods, smoothies, ice cream, and so forth; and can substitute for pumpkin in any recipe.

Persimmon-spiced latte, anyone?

The seeds in my picture are legit Sidewalk Nature: there is a female persimmon tree on my daily sidewalk route. There used to be two. Every year, I thank my lucky stars—and Nashville Electric, as well as the owner of the parking lot that gets bombed with squishy fruit—that “my” tree still stands.

***

More Folklore:
In Tennessee, the old warning to “never eat a persimmon till frost” isn’t true: our persimmons can be perfectly ripe before, during, or after.
But the old warning to never eat an unripe persimmon is *always* true. An unripe persimmon is a sensation your mouth will never forget.

***

​​Tree facts and plant/animal interactions:

  • Diospyros virginiana is in the Ebony family, and has distinctive, easy-to-recognize bark.
  • The leaves are caterpillar host to 50 species of butterflies and moths in Nashville.*
  • Trees are either male or female; with white, bell-like flowers that make nectar and pollen.
  • Fertilized female flowers become plump 1-to-2 inch fruit that feeds birds, insects, mammals, and lucky foragers. 

Etymology:
Most field guides say the genus name, Diospyros, is from dios (Greek for divine), and pyros (wheat / grain), and so means “divine fruit.”
I agree the fruit is divine, though I cannot remark upon the grammar.

Publication history:
I wrote this post for the Tennessee Native Plant Society’s Facebook page, and tweaked it for SidewalkNature. Do you know the TNPS? They lead Field Trips state-wide, and also present monthly online Native Plant Seminars. Highly recommended. Their website, here.

Footnote:
My numbers for persimmon as caterpillar host plant come from the National Wildlife Federation’s Native Plant Finder.

DIY Persimmon Prognostication Paring:
I was advised by Colleen with the Facebook Group “Rewild Nashville” to use a pair of pliers and an exacto knife. I ended up using pliers and a fresh razor blade, and am pleased to report no injuries. In past years, I was not so lucky.
Rewild Nashville’s mission statement is EXCITING and I hope their membership and participation grows like hackberry seedling in a storm drain (pretty darn fast).
“ReWild Nashville invites all Nashvillians to use our gardens and lawns to create naturally safe living space not only for our families but also for native plants, animals and insects that must thrive in order to keep our planet habitable. ReWild Nashville encourages all Nashvillians to begin somewhere, even in small ways, to help recreate a healthy ecosystem for all our sakes.


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Bio:
Joanna Brichetto is a naturalist and writer in Nashville, the hackberry-tree capital of the world.
She writes about everyday marvels amid everyday habitat loss, and her essays have appeared in Creative NonfictionBrevity, Fourth Genre, Hippocampus, The Hopper, Flyway, The Common, Stonecrop Review, The Fourth River and other journals.

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