First frost means many things to many people. Some love it, some dread it, some welcome it, others just plain shiver. Residing in the latter category, my level of appreciation was pretty low until learning a fact from my savvy 15 year old grandson Alexander escorted by his brother Corey, 5 days away from his Bar Mitzvah celebration. They live on a farm nestled in a hollow in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. On a hike along the wooded edge of the farm’s branch of the Hardware River (a stream) Alexander picked some fruit from a small tree. He took a cautious bite of the fruit making a face reflecting his sharp distaste for the fruit in question. “It is an American persimmon,” he declared, “much smaller and deeper red than the Asian Persimmon” often found in produce markets sporting the familiar sweet and delicious flavor.
This tiny persimmon has a hard, shiny shell and is quite bitter, an oily and unpleasant taste that can linger for days. But, after the first frost the tiny persimmon takes on a whole new personality. As if on cue, overnight we reached the freezing mark, the first frost of the season, changing the fruit dramatically. Post-frost, the shell turned soft and wrinkly, the taste satisfying, sweet and delicious.
In the morning our grandson hopped aboard our Motorhome clutching 4 of the American persimmon. Indeed they are delicious, sweet and desirable. What a treat. Most other plants die. shrivel or wither upon the first frost. So with a bit of trivia in mind, the American persimmon has a redeeming characteristic, coming to life in the wake of the first frost of fall. What fun to hike through the woods, hoping to spot trees bearing such a treat; instant gratification and chemical free.
Many surprises await the hiker throughout the year, elusive treats challenging detection before forest critters claim and devour the prizes. They could be spring fiddle heads, truffles, a variety of nuts and berries, mushrooms, edible flowers and so much more. Let me know your favorite “secrets” of the forest?