Donald Culross Peattie is best known for his eloquent, informative and entertaining books about trees, A Natural History of Trees of Eastern and Central North America and A Natural History of Western Trees. The American botanist’s essays on the relations between trees and people over the course of American history are a must read.
In his description of the pawpaw tree, he says everything about it is odd and unforgettable. “The leaves are among the largest in our sylva, and in autumn, when they turn a butter yellow, they are the mellowest of the season’s tone. As to the fruit, the better it grows the uglier, for it is only when it is thoroughly mature, in late fall that it is edible… the yellow flesh is soft, custardy and palatable.”
Peattie’s description of the persimmon tree is equally evocative. “And your own first bite into a persimmon fruit… may unluckily be an unforgettable experience. It will be a day before you can get the puckery taste out of your mouth, and in all probability, you will be disposed never to make another trial of the fruit whose name, Diospyros, means Fruit of Zeus.” He goes on to describe the fruit as “at first green, then amber, then glaucous orange, a persimmon is not ripe until the skin is wrinkled, and unappetizing in appearance, and the pulp so mushy that one cannot eat it without washing their hands afterward.”
October is the perfect time to try both of these “ugly” fruits. While pawpaws prefer moist woodland habitats, persimmons can be found in a much large habitat range which gives you a good excuse to spend lots of time wandering the woods this fall!