Saturday
Dec132014

Early Winter Walk

Autumn has passed. Skeletal remains of leaves are everywhere, lots of crinkly brown shells upon the ground and others still clinging to trees.

I find a single oakleaf hydrangea leaf that still has its fall color. It is the last one, as far as I can see.

I appreciate the Spartan beauty of winter, especially on a pleasantly crisp day with a brilliant blue sky. I walk out on the patio and hear the call of two red tail hawks, soaring high overhead. I breathe in the air and smell the tea olives down in the arbor garden, their blooms tiny and obscure but with a wonderful fragrance that carries on the breeze. I realize this is a perfect day for an early winter walk, so I hurry back inside for my camera.

Back outside, I point my camera at some bright dogwood berries with the cerulean sky above them.

I walk a little farther and take a shot across the front lawn, a view stripped now almost to its essentials. Many dried Japanese maple leaves hold desperately to branches, but other trees are bare: 

Evergreens stand out and provide structure and color to the December garden. Below is a small sampling: Clockwise from top left: Rosemary; Deodar Cedar 'Feelin' Blue'; Japanese Cedar; Cryptomeria japonica.

A group of evergreen Nandina 'Firepower' grows next to the front parking court. These sterile nandinas provide a lot of color through the winter:

Another evergreen with winter interest is Pieris japonica 'Cavatine', laden with buds that will open next spring:

I walk along a path that leads to the arbor garden. I recently planted several Winterberry hollies next to this path. 'Winter Gold' is filled with golden berries that the birds will soon consume:

The bark of a large oak tree catches my attention. Moss highlights the bark's lattice pattern:

Near the oak I spy some acorn shells:

Edgeworthia is a deciduous shrub with wonderful structure, cinnamon-colored bark and outstanding buds that will open in late winter:

Eventually I wander over to the woodland garden, where fallen leaves are thick upon the ground. Lou works hard to keep the paths cleared, but the leaves come quickly behind him. In places the path is nearly obscured. I have been out for a while now, and it is late in the day. Long shadows stretch across the land.

I realize the sun is beginning to go down, and the air is suddenly cold. The days are so much shorter now. I pause to take one last photo, this one of the jasmine arch, lit up for Christmas. The light is just dim enough that the lights can be seen. 

I am content as I enter the house. A walk in the garden always refreshes my spirit, and it has given me unrushed time to reflect upon the Christmas season. Peace to you all!   Deb

Friday
Dec052014

What To Do With Persimmons

It is persimmon season! I discovered persimmons a few years ago when I was offered a sample of Fuyu persimmons. I fell in love with that non-astringent Asian variety. Non-astringent persimmons can be eaten like an apple before they are fully ripened.Fuyu fruit on tree and slicedSince then, I have learned about the astringent varieties, including the American persimmons and some of the Asian varieties. Astringent persimmons must be fully ripe, baggy soft and practically falling off the trees before you eat them. They are wonderfully sweet at that point, but they are terribly bitter if eaten too soon. In my own garden I have two young persimmon trees. One is the Fuyu and another is the Tamopan, an astringent Asian kind.Persimmons stay on the tree longer than the leaves. My young Tamopan tree had two dozen fruit this year.

This beautiful Tamopan persimmon was not yet ripe when this picture was taken in early November.I love both kinds. Persimmons are known as the Fruit of the Gods for good reason.

But what to do with these persimmons? My fuyus get sliced and eaten raw. They are great in salads. Fuyus are also delicious roasted and served with ham, turkey, or roast pork. One can eat the astringent kind raw, but remember they must be fully ripe! Just slice the tops off and scoop out the sweet pulp, which will have a gelatinous consistency. Persimmons also may be pureed, then frozen to eat like a slushie. I love my Tamopans for cooking, however. One can find recipes for persimmon pies, pudding, jelly and cookies, and I have a recipe for persimmon bread that is a huge family favorite.

Here is that recipe: 

Persimmon Bread, will make two 9 inch loaves.

  • 3 1/2 cups sifted flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil or 1 cup melted unsalted butter, cooled to room temperature
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 2/3 cups cooking sherry or your favorite libation: Cognac, bourbon, or whiskey all work well
  • 2 cups persimmon puree ( from about 4-5 squishy-soft Tamopan, Hachiya or other Asian persimmons. I just cut the tops off my Tamopans and scoop the pulp into my blender. You can use American persimmons, but it is a lot more work. The fruit is smaller than the Asian persimmons, so you will need more of them. Put clean, ripe fruit in something like a potato ricer, colander, tomato press or Foley mill and separate the pulp from the seeds and skin.)
  • 2 cups chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 2 cups raisins or diced dried fruit such as cranberries, dates, or apricots 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2. Butter 2 loaf pans. Line the bottoms with a piece of parchment paper or dust with flour and tap out any excess.

3. Sift the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl.

4. Make a well in the center, then stir in the butter, eggs, liquor, persimmon puree, then the nuts and raisins.

5. Bake one hour or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. 

Storage: Will keep for about a week at room temperature, if well-wrapped. May also be frozen.

My family likes this bread so much they start talking about it as soon as the fruit appears on the tree, way back in the summer, then they must wait months for the fruit to ripen. I think it is wonderful that the fruit is finally ripe just in time for Christmas baking!

You may also enjoy my other posts about persimmons:

Persimmons, the Fruit of the Gods

The Best of the Persimmon World

Digging a Hole