Who Needs Corn?

August 9, 2013

Texas PersimmonsI knew that this property held a pretty good mix of wildlife habitat.

The cedar (juniper) that covers my ridge and the far end of my pasture provides great cover, and while too much cedar is a bad thing, a good cover helps minimize erosion, and appears to protect some native grasses from the deadly effects of the Texas summer sun… especially during this drought.  I did a good bit of thinning last year, and while there’s still some more to do, I do enjoy finding new deer trails and beds, as well as the abundance of birds and small game that use this thick stuff.

I’ve got agarita as well, and while they apparently only bear fruit every other year, I had a bumper crop this season.  The birds and little rodents got most of them before I got a chance, but given the harsh conditions this drought has created, I’m OK with that.  We’ve got so much homemade jelly and jam right now, another year or so without agarita is OK by me.

I’ve got a lot of oaks, both red oak, live oak, and various scrub oaks, but they have taken a beating from the drought, and I’m losing several.  They just can’t handle the stress.  Some are shedding huge limbs in a surival effort to minimize their water needs, while in other cases entire trees have simply given up and died.  This is pretty sad, both because I hate to see the big trees dying, and because it means the mast production on my place is going to be even smaller.  I didn’t get much in the way of acorns last year, but I’m holding out hope that the surviving trees will make an effort this fall.  We’ll see.

One plant I knew I had on the property is Texas wild persimmons.  This is a native persimmon, and I’ve got the bushes all over the place here. My main horse pasture is full of them.  Last year, I can’t recall seeing much in the way of fruit, but this year I’ve apparently got a bumper crop.  I walked the pasture yesterday, and where I hadn’t seen a thing the limbs are now laden with green fruit.  And a handful of ripe ones.  On closer inspection, most of the ripe fruit has already been hit by birds, and under each bush I have found piles of fresh deer scat.  The whitetails apparently love these things too.  It’s like a race to get to the fruit when it turns ripe!  I was fortunate to find a couple that had just turned before the birds and animals got them.

The persimmons are, as you can see from the picture, not very much like the big Asian persimmons many of us are most familiar with.  The biggest fruit I found was a little bigger than a quarter.  The skin is sort of thick, with a fuzzy covering sort of like a peach.  Eating one reminds me of biting into a loquat.  The skin is edible, but not very flavorful and sort of chewy.  The flesh sort of separates from the skin, and with a little manipulation you can almost suck it right out.  It’s sweet, and tastes a lot different (to me) than the flesh of the Asian persimmon.  It’s more like a berry.  The only catch is that there’s not a lot there, as each fruit has four or five great big seeds inside.  You do a lot of work for a little reward.

There are a bunch of recipes out there for Texas wild persimmons, and if I can salvage enough from the critters, we might try some of them this season.  But I’m not going to break my neck to pick the plants clean.  The truth is, I’m glad to have something out there for the deer besides corn (which isn’t really all that nutritious).  I figure, if I can’t eat the fruit right from the bush, then at least I can enjoy it in this season’s venison!


4 Responses to “Who Needs Corn?”

  1. Mike C on August 10th, 2013 04:27

    Very descriptive. Lovely article; I enjoyed it.


  2. Phillip on August 10th, 2013 07:40

    Thanks, Mike. It’s amazing what can pop out when struggling to find a topic to write about.

  3. Jesse on August 12th, 2013 03:19

    Every Oct I plop my behind next to the best persimmon tree on the farm. For a trad bowhunter it’s almost unfair. An unripe persimmon is also the most bitter thing I’ve ever put in my piehole.

  4. Phillip on August 12th, 2013 07:23

    One thing these Texas persimmons share with the big, orange Asian persimmons is that bitterness. I taste tested one a couple weeks ago and my lips are only now starting to unpucker.