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Carrol Vertrees: Biting into a persimmon makes one ‘pucker’ up

Carrol Vertrees

Carrol Vertrees

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Updated: November 1, 2012 6:18AM



It is a heck of a memory, and I can almost taste it, so pardon me while I get myself unpuckered.

No, I am not expecting a kiss. I am remembering what happens when you bite into a persimmon that is not quite ready for prime time. You know, only partly ripe.

Well, unless you are from persimmon land, you don’t really know what you missed on your way to growing up. The climate here is not friendly to persimmons, my agricultural experts tell me.

Mostly, I remember the wonder of a ripe persimmon, a cute little fruit that makes southern Indiana a geographical jewel. In case you care, which I don’t, this fruit is in fact a berry, according to botanical morphology, whatever that is. But by any name, this red-orange or yellow-orange fellow is a sweet treat.

I began to salivate when I read about the annual persimmon fest down in downstate Mitchell — it has ended, but I suspect folks who attended will taste the memory for a long time.

Mitchell is the birthplace of Gus Grissom, one of the original astronauts, and he is revered down there. So is the persimmon. Mitchell has hosted a Persimmon Festival since 1946 — that is the year I began to celebrate something even sweeter than a perfectly ripe persimmon.

The persimmon world was fun for kids back home. One challenge was to see how quickly we could whistle after biting into an unripe persimmon, thus the term “pucker.” It was a challenge to a kid’s salivating ability, although we didn’t know that’s what it was. Its entertainment value is everlasting to a kid from persimmon land.

Persimmon pudding is considered by some folks as the ultimate way to showcase the wonderful flavor of this little fruit. The Union at Indiana University in Bloomington used to serve persimmon ice cream and maybe it is still on the treat menu. I remember that as clearly as I recall the basketball thrills from down there.

A highlight of the Mitchell celebration is a persimmon pudding eating contest. Even finishing last in that one would be rewarding.

It is OK, I reckon, for an old geezer like me to start salivating or puckering when he thinks back to the simple, memorable fun we had just shaking those “simmons” down, as an old song goes. Memories are my way back to kidhood. A roundtrip, of course.

But we all have links like that, no matter where we spent childhood. Northwest Indiana is rich in memories for folks who grew up here. In their own way, those memories cause their own puckering and smiles, maybe even tears that sometimes come with remembering.

We share a lot of great memories, but some are so personal that we can almost feel smug — they are our own private links to early days. If we don’t pause and feel those long-ago fun events, we cheat ourselves.

It sounds contradictory, but some memories may make us pucker up, unable to whistle or talk, while also touching the sweet chords of joy that make us smile.

So I say, go ahead; shake them “simmons” down. Do something!



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