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Persimmon trip story - A Day Trip

Hunting the remembered persimmon tree
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By Linda Waggener

Not to be too effusive, but it truly was an incredible Kentucky October day -- you know the kind of sunny day that shimmers, chilly clean air softly rattling drying leaves - the kind of fall day my husband Ed calls technicolor, when every single thing on earth looks great.

This trip happened when our good friend Mary Keltner visited and breakfast conversation took us to memories of ripening pears and persimmons and the seasonal butters and preserves that result from them. It was decided the day was perfect and the time was right to check out a remembered right-of-way wild persimmon tree. We knew we could go to the grocery store and buy the giant Japanese persimmons that are rumored to be pretty good, yet we'd miss the journey of the hunt and the taste of home.

Heading in the vicinity of an overloaded tree Ed recalled seeing by the roadside, we traveled north and east from Columbia up Highway 206. This road is a favorite scenic route when we want to go to the Janice Holt and Henry Giles cabin or to get a jug of water at Spout Springs, but that was not the mission of the moment.

We traveled along according to his directions, trusting when Ed said, "of course you understand the male of the species has the God-given XY navigation chromosome." Had her husband, the late James Howard Keltner, been in the car with us, he'd have announced that Ed was right and that was why men have no need to stop and ask for directions. Neither Mary nor I brought up how frequently the male God-given XY navigation chromosome shortcuts have made trips longer over the years, no, not even a raised eyebrow in the rearview mirror at our backseat driver. In Pellyton we turned left onto Barnett's Creek Road, rode past Barnett's Creek United Methodist Church thinking of our good friends there, and Mary remembered coming once after a tornado hit the community when she was the Adair County Health Nurse to give tetanus shots. Not far past the church, Ed directed that we turn right onto Gennie Hill Road.

Moving slowly along the beautiful narrow road, scanning left and right, we saw wonderful fall landscape but no persimmon tree. Our navigator said not to worry, he thought it should be just up the road.

"Are we going to have a brown fall?" was a question asked more than once on our journey, noticing when the ever-so-occasional bright red or orange tree stood out starkly among many that had already turned rust colored or brown as we left Adair County.

At the T where Gennie Hill Road connects with Sanders Ridge Road, our navigator said with confidence that even though we'd not found the persimmon tree he remembered, nor any persimmon tree for that matter, that it would surely be just up the road, and directed a left turn onto Sanders Ridge Road which turns into Moxley Road before it connects with Highway 70 at Creston, KY in Casey County. We stopped for refreshments at the Creston Y gas and quick shop and found it to be a growing community with a new dollar store, interesting, accommodating folks.

It was only after we decided that if we didn't find the tree at all, the trip was still worth it. As happens when one surrenders all, suddenly everything falls into place. A little ways south of Creston, there was Ed's remembered tree truly laden with shiny orange persimmons, not fenced in, but also not really on the right-of-way.

Should we stop and ask at the house next door? Yes.

The gracious owner of the tree said we were welcome to pick up some of the fruit on the ground, but that there'd only been two frosts on them and the persimmons might not yet be at their best. She said they get sweeter with each frost.

With her permission, we walked the few yards to the roadside tree and found thirty or forty ripe persimmons and a few that had missed being frosted on that we knew from experience not to let our lips touch or they'd pucker severely. Many on the ground crop had already been claimed by bees, wasps and other flutterers and we knew the penalty of trying to touch those.

Mission accomplished for the three of us, and satisfaction for the navigator at having been proven right all along, the mood was high! We headed triumphantly south on Highway 206 back to Adair County, intent on getting to the next step with our persimmons.

However, after a short drive, still in Casey County, the way the sun gave a spotlight to the land, we felt called to turn right onto Ewing Ridge Road, another tiny road into picturesque fields and hills. In a different light - and God is tricky this way - in a different light you just think you're in another country. Then on your return, in yet different light, there you are still in your own home territory. It all looked brand new in the light of that afternoon. The tree had been found and now we simply traveled for the sheer joy of it.

We wound past a grand house with a veranda all the way around and wove into and out of tree tunnels of Oak, Maple, Beech, Red Bud, Cedar, Dogwood, Poplar and Pine trees. Corn and Soybean fields were in various stages of harvest and fencerow Sumac berries were ripening in the sun. Queen Anne's Lace and Goldenrod were in their drying phases before returning to dust. Occasional yards had first a Trump sign, then a Clinton sign, then Comer signs, then a Rebel flag.

We meandered off the ridge, down the long hills back to the T at Highway 206 just north of the Adair County line and turned right at the big round bale of hay with the pumpkin face painted on it's side.

Back on the big road, we did resist an urge to turn again on Barnett's Creek Road and take the whole magical journey over again. We decided to be strong. It's hard though, to resist a road where traffic comes to a complete stop in both directions while a big red rooster ambles across it.

The lure of the shortcut compelled us to turn right just after passing over Green River onto Little Cake Road. That made sense somehow. We passed by the sweet Little Cake Christian Church that Ed had written about in 2012, "... It offers a feeling of being snug and secure, surrounded by scenic hills, protected by the river and its lake, of being safe in a place time hardly touches. Still small but stately. Still serene. Still a place of sanctuary." We drove on past Jerry Holt's unique gate with the bicycle mounted on it and acknowledged his great ability and strength, being able to ride his recumbent bike straight up the hill we were heading onto, one of two test climbs in the state for biker groups far and wide.

Continuing on Little Cake we passed the old one-room school that's gradually being overtaken by Mother Earth, on past the home of writer Susie Grant and on past someone's perfect orange Cosmos tilting in the breeze. On top of the hill, we remembered good friend and coworker, the late Charles Piercy, as we passed the home that he built with Francis and their baby daughter. At the end of the Little Cake Road shortcut, at the stop by Purdy Separate Baptist Church, we were back to 206 again, all the richer for having taken the shortcut, turning right toward Columbia.

Once back at home our navigator, having successfully done his work, went back to writing on while I gathered the appropriate pots, pans and strainers and Mary began cleaning and capping the sticky fruit. We shared the work of separating the persimmon seeds from the pulp, getting plenty of upper body exercise, and then set to brewing the Magic Mountain Coffee from Sixth & Main Coffeehouse.

Mary had experience making apple butter for her family and friends and knew just what to do turning the persimmons into yummy fruit butter. Even though the persimmon tree owner had cautioned that they might not be ripe enough, this sampling proved to be plenty sweet with only a bit of added sugar. Within about an hour after our trip ended, we were enjoying persimmon butter on toasted bread with hot coffee.

This story was posted on 2016-10-30 08:09:34
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Epicurean Kentucky: Adair County Persimmons

2013-11-10 - Adair County, KY - Photo by Linda Waggener. These persimmons from the Gradyville area have gone through a frost, fell from the trees, and are pronounced ready for snacking in their fresh state or going into delightful Thanksgiving puddings and pies. A taste test proved them sweet and delicious. Persimmons don't seem to be so common anymore, so many don't know that if eaten before that frost they can make ones mouth pucker up like taking a tablespoon of alum - a very unpleasant experience.
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Fall Bounty in Adair County: Overladen persimmon tree

2016-10-15 - Some secret place in Southern Adair Country - Photo by Ed Waggener, (c).
Wow! Somebody will probably bake a lot of persimmon pies, or a luckier sort will make an even better wine or liqueur from the soon to be delicacies. You can almost hear the limbs groaning. there are so many. It wouldn't be fair to tell anyone where they are, but they are almost out of the county. Right now, before a frost, they aren't yet fitten to eat. - EW
Comments -

Persimmon time in Kentucky: Not all are ready to eat

2016-10-25 - Casey County, KY - Photo by Ed Waggener, (c).
Even after the first two frosts of fall, on October 22 and 23, 2016, not all persimmons which fell to the ground were ready to eat. Two of those above were still mouth-puckering astringent. Nobody tried those. There are some easy ways to know for sure, besides the color. We're hoping that old timers will send their tips on checking for ripeness, and recipes, uses for the tasty delicacies, for possible inclusion in an article in the works by Linda Waggener, with expert input from Mary Keltner. - EW

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