There’s an odd rule of thumb when it comes to the persimmon: When you think it looks like garbage — that’s when you want to eat it.

Which, of course, goes against our usual thinking when it comes to fruits. If a banana turns black or an apple looks bruised, you pitch ’em in the trash like the leftover meatloaf you caught your cat licking. But, throughout history, persimmons have been famous for their ripeness (or lack of), leading to colorful colonial quotes such as, “They are not good until they be rotten,” “If it be not ripe it will drawe a mans mouth awrie, with much torment,” and — last but not least — “When they are not fully ripe, they are harsh and choakie, and furre a man’s mouth like allam.”

persimmonsWhile you’re looking up “furre” and “allam,” (and good luck to you), we should also note that the persimmon is often associated with the holidays. While you might think that’s because they look like Christmas tree ornaments, it probably has more to do with the fact that it is also the tree crop most associated with chilly winter temperatures. (Persimmons can hang on to their twigs until as late as January.)

The size of an apple, it’s a sweet, versatile little fruit, which can be used in breads, puddings, cookies, ice cream, candy, pies and even beers. And, of course, you can eat them “as is,” though you might have to get over the visual aspect. Because when they look pretty, they might taste like chalk — or whatever allam is. And when they don’t, well, beauty is in the eye — er, uh, taste buds — of the beholder.

A good persimmon might be wrinkled with brown spots. It will be soft and mushy.

A little like garbage. Except the kind of garbage you’ll want to sink your teeth into — assuming the cat didn’t lick it.

While you chew on that, here’s a recipe for persimmon cookies, provided by Food.com.

INGREDIENTS

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the sugar and shortening. Add the persimmon pulp and egg. Set aside.
  2. Sift together the flour, soda, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves.
  3. Combine dry ingredients with persimmon mixture and blend well.
  4. Add raisins and nuts.
  5. Drop by teaspoonfuls on cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes. Remove from cookie sheet and dip in powdered sugar.