Category Archives: Plants

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)
Water
Sugar
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.

Notes:
• 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.

Announcing: Wildcrafted Medicine Class in Los Angeles

I’m pleased to announce that my friend Rebecca and I are going to be teaching a series of wildcrafted medicine classes in Los Angeles. First up: elderflowers!

elderflowers

The Wildcrafted Apothecary: A Herbal Medicine Class

Elderflower Essentials
Sunday, May 5, 1 ~ 4 pm

Los Angeles-area park (location provided to registered participants)

Elderflowers are blooming across Southern California! Learn how to gather them and make your own immune-boosting herbal elixir.

elder

This class is a hands-on experience and includes:

Wildcrafting: Learn how to confidently identify and ethically gather local elderflowers
Tasting: Sip elderflower cordial, tea, and tincture
Medicine making: Make your own elder elixir
Herbal wisdom: We will discuss immune system basics, how herbalists treat viruses, and the difference between stimulating and relaxing diaphoretics
Take-home goodies: You will receive an information packet with recipes and herbal guidance, a bag of elder tea, and the elixir you made!

No medicine cabinet should be without this.

$85 – includes organic/wildcrafted ingredients, supplies, and tastings

→ Register via PayPal: http://tinyurl.com/elderflowerclass

Class is limited to 15 participants.

Questions? Email classes@kingsroadapothecary.com

Rebecca & Emily

About the instructors:

Rebecca Altman is an herbalist, writer, and proprietor of King’s Road Apothecary, a modern twist on an old-fashioned apothecary shop. Rebecca also writes about food, herbs, travel, and magic at Cauldrons & Crockpots.

Emily Ho is a writer and educator. She writes about nature, culture, and food at Roots & Marvel and contributes to Apartment Therapy’s The Kitchn. Emily is also a Master Food Preserver and founder of LA Food Swap and Food Swap Network.

Cancellation policy: Rebecca Altman and Emily Ho reserve the right to cancel a class if necessary due to circumstances beyond our control or when enrollment is deemed insufficient. In this case, all payments will be refunded. Participant cancellations made up to one week prior to an event are eligible for a full refund less PayPal transaction fees incurred from both purchase and refund. Cancellations outside of this time frame are non-refundable. Class registration is transferable to another person if you are unable to attend. You must contact us to transfer your registration.