It’s that time of year again. Midsummer. The garden and orchard are lush. Or mostly lush. A young whitetail deer mowed through many of the green beans, some of the Swiss chard, and a whole lot of spinach a few days ago. And the poppies are struggling. Perhaps over-seeded. Perhaps too much rain. Perhaps both. But the broccoli, summer squash, lettuce greens, and most everything else is thriving. The trees in the orchard are robust, and despite the severe late season frosts, many are doing very well. Several apple trees are so heavily laden with fruit that I will need to begin thinning them soon. But the point of this post is another midsummer milestone: persimmon optimism.
For the last several summers, right about now — early July to late July — I get high on the hope that our three persimmon trees will bear edible fruit. I check them most days, monitor the magical metamorphosis from bloom to minuscule fruit. Day by day, the tiny green bundle swell. Little by little, they earn my hoping confidence, my persimmon optimism. But in each of the previous years since our persimmon trees reached fruit bearing maturity, something sudden and saddening takes place. Known by orchardists as “premature fruit drop”, this phenomenon can be triggered by a late season application of fertilizer, a sudden plunge in temperatures, or other traumatic events. Sometimes premature free drop happens for no reason at all. In our case, Roslyn‘s persimmon trees, suddenly, inexplicably, let fall all of their still small, still unripened, just barely marble sized fruit.
It has been each year a sort of wound, startling, discouraging, painful. but lest I invite misfortune, I will now resist worry and reside in wonder. I’ll cultivate my persimmon optimism.
Let’s sidestep the vexing fact that almost a dozen years into cultivating three persimmon trees in Rosslyn’s orchard we’ve never produced a single edible persimmon. (Source: Persimmons & Seasonality)
It’s true that this year has been different. Not just the curious climate challenges, but the persimmons have not undergone a sudden and total premature fruit drop. Well, two out of three trees were heavy with fruit. A couple of weeks ago, I can scarcely find any remaining on one, and only very few on the other. The third tree has no fruit, but it’s been nursed back from almost dead twice over the last couple of years. I anticipate that we have a few more years restoring it to health. So there has been a natural thinning of the fruit, but no sudden shake off. I’m seeing this is as a positive development. Perhaps the still young trees are only capable of setting a few fruit at this stage. And so far they are doing so. The fruit or swelling. The largest we’ve ever had. Yes, still small. Not much larger than the end of my thumb. But they look like persimmons. Still green, but robust. They promise the pleasure of eating…
Persimmon Optimism, Haiku
I’m leaning into the possibility that they will endure and mature.
Pair of persimmons,
pert, plumping, green apple green,
ready to ripen?
It feels a little foolhardy, willing words to fortify fruit. But I must. And I have. The deed is done.
Let nature accept and reward my persimmon optimism.
Perhaps you’re wondering why I grow persimmons so far north, one man’s crusade to charm fruiting Dyospyros, cousin to the ebony tree, despite its heretofore unrequited intentions.
If so, your curiosity is warranted. And my answer, overly nuanced and convoluted, is best saved for another day, another post. Suffice to say that my passion for persimmoning has at least some antecedent roots in a long ago father-son initiative to raise quince trees in the Adirondacks. And a wine vineyard. So, for now, let’s just say that there’s a family root for my persimmon optimism, a sort of stubborn romanticism that I’ll leave for another day.