Friday, November 4, 2011

Folklife Friday: Persimmons and 'Possums

No one has to tell a child not to eat unripe persimmons twice. Once a child takes a bite of a green one, the memory stays with him forever. It's that bad. I speak from experience.

We hunted them, however, because we wanted to see what was inside the seed. The seed, when opened, could reveal a knife, fork, or spoon. We spent hours opening persimmon seed. My sister's husband was from Maine, and when he first came to the South, he thought this search for persimmon cutlery was the weirdest thing we did.

Astringent persimmons are common in the eastern United States. Back in the day, people who hunted opossums for food or sport or just because they were mad at them for getting in the chicken pen, looked for persimmon trees. Opossums loved the fruit and could often be found hiding in the trees. This could be used as a measure of their intelligence, since the trees were completely bare of leaves by the time the persimmons were ripe.*

There were some families who cooked opossums then, baking them for hours and surrounding them with ripe persimmons or sweet potatoes. Our family probably would have been considered poor, but we were never that poor! We had squirrels and rabbits and quails, but my mom would not consider cooking anything as ugly as an opossum.

As an adult, I have been quite adventurous in my eating, consuming alligator, squid, octopus, shark (it does NOT taste like chicken), and many other things not usually found on a Southern table. I have never tasted opossum, however. Maybe I will get that hungry someday, but it hasn't happened yet.

*This photo is from the American Hiking Society blog. I did not go out in the woods at night and find an opossum.