Saturday, October 16, 2010

possom in a persimmon tree

There two things that go hand and hand in the Ozarks hill when the temperature begins to drop in the late fall and that is Persimmons and Opossums. Opossums are often found in a persimmons trees in the fall of the year.
We ate persimmons when we were children after the frost had sweeten the fruit but we never ate opossum because Dad said that the animal was famous for feasting on dead animals and was not fit for food. I have read that people who have tried to eat this animal that is very greasy meat but as I said I have no personal knowledge of the opossum as food.
During the depression my father hunted the opossum for it fur which he would stretch on a board and then sold for cash. This animal was one of the few that was plentiful during the hungry years. my children have hunted the raccoon and have avoid hunting the opossum the thinking being that a coon dog that would tree a opossum was not a good dog.
If you bite into a piece of fruit that looks like an orange tomato and your lips pucker because of the bitter taste, you may be chewing on an unripe persimmon. Your reaction would be similar to that of the early settlers of North America.
Those settlers found persimmons inedible until the Native Americans told them the fruit would not be ready to eat until the first frost. The settlers assumed this meant the frost was necessary to improve the taste, but the natives meant the fruit should be left on the tree well into October when it was ripe enough to eat.
A odd thing that we knew as children was if you open the seed of a persimmon fruit there would be small white things in the seeds and some would be shaped like a knife and others had the look of a spoon. We believed that what we saw in the seed meant whether we would have a bad winter or a mild winter. I have forgot which was a sign of a mild winter was it a spoon or a knife?
The persimmon native to North America is Diospyros virginiana that the Algonquin Indians called putchamin, pasiminan, or pessamin, depending on the dialect of the tribe. This persimmon was small, seedy and had an unpleasant taste when eaten before it was ripe. This astringent quality is caused by tannin present in the fruit when it is not completely ripe. Diospyros virginiana was quite different from the persimmons we see in the markets today. It was the size of a grape and had to be left on the tree into the winter.
Growing wild, it varied in quality from tree to tree. Hernando de Soto and his conquistadors found the Native Americans eating bread made from what they called "prunes." The loaves they were fed were formed from dried persimmons.
The settlers of Jamestown described persimmons as "very sweet and pleasant to the taste, and yields on distillation, after fermentation, a quality of spirits." When Captain John Smith was not busy with Pocahontas, he is quoted as saying, "If it be not ripe it will drawe a mans mouth awrie with much torment; but when it is ripe, it is as delicious as an Apricock."

opossum , name for several marsupials , or pouched mammals, of the family Didelphidae, native to Central and South America, with one species extending N to the United States. With the exception of an obscure group found in South American forests, opossums are the only living marsupials outside the Australia-New Guinea region. Extremely abundant despite the encroachment of civilization and apparently little changed over millions of years, they owe their success to their adaptability, omnivorous diet, and rapid reproductive rate. Opossums are more or less arboreal, nocturnal animals, with long noses, naked ears, prehensile tails, and opposable hind toes tipped with flat pads. They eat small animals, eggs, insects, and fruit. The common, or Virginia, opossum, Didelphis marsupialis, ranges from Argentina to the N United States; it is found mostly in wooded areas and is common in the SE


Donna said...

In his book, "An Hour Before Daylight", Jimmy Carter talks about an aunt and uncle he and his sister spent time with; they served opossum often. Jimmy had to gag it down because he hated it.

Adirondackcountrygal said...

I love opossums but have never had the pleasure of seeing one alive in the woods!

Sister--Three said...

I love this post, Sis. And I am not playing possum!