Category Archives: Cooking

Foraging in Texas: Wild Persimmons

Texas persimmon

The summer after I turned five, my family moved from Massachusetts back to my birth state of Texas. Among my earliest memories of my new home are the walks my mother and I took around the neighborhood, learning about the plants we encountered. There were pink primroses with flowers that closed during the day and magically opened at dusk, sprawling mesquite trees that comforted me with their earthy scent, and spiderwort blossoms that we brushed with egg whites and sugar to make into candy. I trace much of my sense of wonder about the natural – and edible! – world back to those days with my mom.

Texas persimmon

I’m grateful any time she and I can continue to practice walking and exploring together, and last week was one of those all-too-rare yet treasured occasions. Drawing upon a combination of our senses, my mom’s Master Naturalist training, and my wildcrafting instinct, we managed to find an abundance of wild edibles growing around her home in Northeast San Antonio. Most exciting was the bumper crop of native Texas persimmons (Diospyros texana), thanks to early summer rains in this typically drought-ridden area.

Texas persimmon

Often times wild fruits are edible, but not necessarily delicious until you add a heap of sugar or honey. Texas persimmons need none of that. Once they ripen to a deep purple-black, these fruits are jammy and sweet, with a flavor reminiscent of plums or prunes. You can eat them out of hand, popping them into your mouth whole, enjoying their peach fuzz-like skin, and then spitting out the seeds, or you can cook them into jellies, puddings, and more. Humans aren’t the only ones who like Texas persimmons; they’re a food source for local deer, birds, raccoons, and other animals. For this reason I didn’t gather terribly many, just enough to make a small jar of fruit butter. Given the color of the persimmons the butter is perhaps a bit sludgy in appearance, but tasty nonetheless.

Do you ever forage or cook with Texas persimmons? I’d love to hear what you do with them!

Texas persimmon butter or jam

Texas Persimmon Butter

Texas persimmons (Diospyros texana)
Lemon juice
Ground cinnamon

Wash the persimmons and remove any stems. Place in a saucepan and add enough water to reach halfway to the top of the fruit. Bring to a low simmer and mash the persimmons with a potato masher or fork. Continue to cook slowly, stirring and mashing occasionally, for about 10 to 15 minutes until the persimmons are very soft and the pulp can be easily separated from the seeds.

Press through a food mill, colander, or strainer. If using a colander or strainer, use a spoon or spatula to press out as much pulp and juice as possible. Measure the purée. Return it into the saucepan. For each 1 cup of purée, add 1/2 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, and 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon.

Bring to a simmer over moderate heat, stirring frequently. Cook until thick, about 10 to 20 minutes depending on volume.

• 3 cups of fresh persimmons yield about 1 cup of butter.
• This recipe is not tested for canning. I recommend storing in the refrigerator.
• Leftover persimmon seeds and peels (pomace) can be used to make infused vodka, brandy, or other liquors.

Texas persimmon tart

Another recipe had left me with a few cups of leftover milk, so I made up an easy batch of homemade ricotta, which paired nicely with the persimmon butter to fill a rustic, sweet-but-not-too-sweet summer tart. Alas, the butter and tarts don’t conform to my usual gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free lifestyle, but I was cooking for family and wanted to use a few tried-and-true techniques and recipes from my pre-elimination-diet days. Perhaps next year, if I’m back home for the summer and there has been enough rain, I can give these another go with alternative ingredients for myself and anyone else in the GF/DF/SF crowd. I did have a spoonful of butter and a bite of tart, though, and I have to say they were quite delectable!

Texas Persimmon Butter Tarts

Makes 4 tarts

1/2 recipe Martha Stewart’s Pâte Brisée (or your favorite flaky pie crust)
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
1/2 cup Texas persimmon butter (see recipe above)
1 egg, beaten
Turbinado or other coarse sugar

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Divide the dough into four equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece into a 1/4-inch-thick round. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Spread 1/4 cup of ricotta cheese over each dough round, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge. Spread 2 tablespoons of Texas persimmon butter on top of the ricotta.

Fold over the border, gently pressing to keep the dough in place. (Don’t worry about making it perfect; these tarts are meant to be free-form.) Brush the dough with egg and lightly sprinkle with sugar.

Bake until the crust is golden, about 40 minutes. Transfer the tarts to a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Preventing Food Waste


Today I had the pleasure of speaking to “The Healthy Beauty Show” on 1380 The Woman about ways to prevent food waste. This is a subject I’m not proud to say I have experience with, but years of overenthusiastic farmers’ market and foraging trips have taught me a thing or two about being more conscientious. Preventing food waste shouldn’t be about feeling guilty, but rather working towards more mindful eating practices. We can all take steps every day and continually work towards getting better.

If you’re looking for tips, I’ve written about food waste quite a bit over at The Kitchn:
6 Habits to Prevent Food Waste
Conscientious Cook: Mindfulness about Waste
Tip: Save Vegetable Scraps for Stock
5 Ways to Use Dried Citrus Peels
American Wasteland by Jonathan Bloom (fantastic book!)

Also, here are some of my favorite resources on the topic:
Wasted Food
Love Food Hate Waste
Still Tasty

I’d love it if you shared your own tips in the comments here, too!

Conifer Syrup & the Best Conference Ever


Most conferences I’ve attended have gone something like this: show up to some hotel ballroom, get a name badge, sit through endless panels and PowerPoint presentations, and then muster up the energy to attend a reception where I attempt to make small talk while holding a cup of so-so wine.

CAMP isn’t your average conference.

The brainchild of UNIQUE‘s Sonja Rasula, the very first CAMP drew together an inspiring group of entrepreneurs and creatives for an immersive experience unlike any I’ve had before. Up in the mountains two hours outside of LA, we had our comfort zones challenged, bonded with our peers, and attended workshops that stimulated both mind and body. No name tags, no cell phones, no stuffy hotel rooms, and no subpar booze (on the contrary, Proprietors LLC were on hand for evening cocktails and mixology lessons!). It was a four-day experience that I’ll remember for a lifetime.


As the leader of a CAMP workshop called Wildcrafting with Conifers, I had the great joy of teaching participants about some of the wild foods in the woods around our camp. We focused on my favorite citrusy white fir (Abies concolor) and vanilla-scented Jeffrey pine (Pinus jeffreyi), both of which can be used to make fragrant syrups for cocktails, sodas, and more. I like mixing conifer syrup with fizzy water and a squeeze of lemon — splash of homemade gin optional. White fir can be especially aromatic and lemony and I love the syrup with fresh strawberries, drizzled over cake, and used to sweeten hot tea and lemonade. The possibilities are limitless.


Depending on where you live, you could make conifer syrup with fir (Abies), Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), pine (Pinus), spruce (Picea), or hemlock (Tsuga; not to be confused with Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum, which is a completely different plant). Flavors vary between seasons and even individual plants, so nibble as you forage and pick what tastes and smells good to you. Never cut the top of a tree, which can open it up to decay and disease — just pinch or cut off the tips of the branches with pruning shears. As always when foraging, be mindful of the health of the plants, their ecosystem, and your role in it.

Because we did not have refrigeration in our cabins at CAMP, I had us make a shelf-stable rich syrup (2:1 sugar to water ratio), which has a lower water content and a splash of vodka to prevent spoilage. One could also make a 1:1 simple syrup and store it in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

Conifer Syrup

Makes about 1 3/4 cup (14 ounces)

2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup water
1/2 to 1 cup conifer tips and/or needles
1 ounce 100-proof vodka

Lightly bruise the conifer needles with a knife.

Combine the conifer needes, sugar, and water in a saucepan over low-moderate heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Simmer for 5-7 minutes until the solution is clear.

Let cool completely and strain. Stir in the vodka.

Bottle in a very clean, airtight bottle.

conifer syrup

p.s. We also made buttery shortbread cookies scented with white fir and orange zest! For that recipe, see my post at The Kitchn → Evergreen Shortbread Cookies