Southern Indiana is wild about persimmons. The little fruit even gets its own festival in Mitchell. Hoosiers use persimmons in everything from barbeque sauce to beer, but the signature dish is persimmon pudding.
Ranging from Ping-Pong ball to plum size, the persimmon is a round, reddish-orange fruit that ripens in mid to late autumn. When the fruit is fully ripe, it falls off the tree, so gather your persimmons from the ground. Premature persimmons are extremely bitter, but the ripe fruit is soft and juicy with a sweet, mellow flavor.
Native persimmons are not sold commercially because the ripe fruit is too fragile, and the pH level of the pulp makes it potentially hazardous. Only health department certified sellers can peddle the pulp for profit. Twin Tykes of Orleans, Seeds and Such in Bedford and Apple Acres in Bedford are three such sellers in the area.
As former chair of Mitchell’s persimmon pudding contest, Krystal Shetler says the annual Persimmon Festival is a great place to find persimmon desserts and recipes.
“The success of your recipe depends almost completely on the pulp,” Shetler says. Persimmons must be ripe to be strained into pulp, which should be a deep orange color. Mitchell resident Eva Powell has won the pudding contest more times than anyone else in festival history, and Shetler recommends her classic recipe for persimmon pudding.
2 cups persimmon pulp
2 cups sugar
1-1⁄2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1-1⁄2 cups buttermilk
1⁄4 cup cream
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 pound butter or margarine
1 teaspoon baking powder
Instructions: Mix the pulp and sugar in a large bowl. Stir in two large, beaten eggs.
In a separate bowl, combine the baking soda and buttermilk. Stir until the foaming stops.
Pour into the first mixture and stir. Sift in flour, salt and baking powder. Beat well.
Add cinnamon and cream. Melt the butter in a pan. Pour melted butter into the batter, leaving just
enough to grease the pan. Beat the mixture well. Bake it approximately one hour at 350 degrees.
Botanically, the persimmon tree goes by Diospyros virginiana, meaning fruit of the gods.
Shetler says a good way to get more recipes is to substitute persimmon into pumpkin recipes.
Ready-made persimmon pudding is available at C J’s Homemade Cakes & Cookies and at Spring Mill Inn (both in Mitchell).