WINTER SUGARY LUMPS, ohhh yeahhhh

Persimmons are large reddish-orange sugary lumps, or berries, that grow on widely spreading deciduous trees, potentially reaching around 18 metres in height. They belong to the Ebony (Ebenaceae) family. The varieties are more often divided between astringent and non-astringent, and between those categories the two most common are Diospyros virginiana and Diospyros kaki. The American, astringent (virginiana) variety is only happily eaten once it is fully ripe, as the astringency, given by the high concentration of tannins makes them chalk-like, bitter and dry. If you have ever experienced a persimmon in this form you likely never went back. Once ripe, however, they are soft, gooey, jelly-like and sweet.The Oriental variety (kaki) can be eaten prior to extreme ripeness without trouble, as it is non-astringent. The taste, when ripe, is of a honey-sweet pumpkin, with a touch of spice. Diospyros, in Greek means “Food of the Gods” or “divine food.” The tree is hardy and attractive, does well in cooler summer climates, is self-fruitful, and practically pest-free.

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Photo taken from: https://www.treehugger.com/green-food/how-eat-persimmon-pro.html

The astringent ‘Simmon, American Persimmon, or Hachiya, is found in hardy zones 4 through 8, and ranges across the United States from Southern Connecticut to the Gulf of Mexico, and West to Texas. The fruits are oval-shaped. The tree has a hard desirable wood, with greyish-brown bark, and glossy 6” leaves, which emerge as reddish and become yellow and red in the fall. The Oriental, or Fuyu, found in hardy zones 8 through 10, originated in China, and can now be found in Japan, Korea, Southern Europe and Brazil.  These fruits are round with a flat bottom.

This fruit’s fragrant white flowers emerge in July and August, while its fruit comes to visit in the late fall and early winter. The trees are best propagated by grafting onto established root stems. A leaf analysis can ensure the tree is receiving proper nitrogen amounts, as the tree responds well to nitrogen fertilizers, and would, therefore, do well planted with nitrogen fixers. Fruits vary in quality and size even upon the same tree, but fruit thinning is a sure way to guarantee high quality persimmons. Trees may need to be cross pollinated, so it is best to plant two. A young tree should start to produce by its sixth year, and will reach its maximum production when around 25-50 years old. It requires full sun, and once established it is mostly drought-tolerant, and hardy up to -25 degrees fahrenheit.

In Korean Folklore, they used dried persimmons to keep tigers away. Both varieties have been cultivated since prehistoric times, in China, and by Native Americans. In China the fruit was believed to have mystical healing powers. The fruit is likely little known because it makes a poor market fruit. This is due to the fruit being extremely astringent prior to ripeness, and being at its best when able to fully ripen on the tree.

Persimmons at fruit garden, Valencia, Spain
Photo taken from: http://thelaurelofasheville.com/archives/in-bloom-common-persimmon/

Besides consuming persimmons fresh and dried, they are good in baking, caramelized into a sauce, vinegar, molasses, pudding, beer and tea. Since the fruit is high in fibre, it aids in weight loss, and helps with stomach issues like IBS and diarrhea. They are a natural antibiotic and antioxidant, and are safely consumed by those with diabetes. Beta-carotene makes them good for eyesight, and high concentrations of Vitamin-C in the fruits and leaves may help those with anemia, as iron is better absorbed when consumed with this vitamin. The bark has medicinal properties. This is a damn good Permaculture plant.

The late fruit production makes the plant useful as a year-round food source, as the fruits are at their best when other fruits are done. This increases one’s food security and resilience. It serves as a winter food source for both humans and animals. As it needs full sun, it makes a great shade-giving plant for the canopy layer. It does well planted with most other things, and its resilience against “juglone”, Black Walnut Poison, makes it a good buffer plant. And hey wow, practically pest-free, so no worries, man! The fruits can be used to make dye because of the high tannin content. The dark wood can be used to make beautiful objects, such as bowls. Since the tree is aesthetically beautiful, it makes a great food-producing ornamental. The fruits are easy to preserve as they stay on the trees through much of the winter, and can keep well on a counter for weeks. Once established they do not need to be watered. The easiest way to pick persimmons, according to Euell Gibbons, is to lay a blanket or tarp-like material around the base, and then climb up and shake the tree, allowing the perfectly ripe fruits to fall upon it. Did I mention that they are sugary-lumps?

References

Encyclopedia of Fruit & Nuts. (2008). (Jules Janick & Robert E. (ed.). Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.

Fruit, Berry and Nut Inventory: 3rd Edition. (2001). (Kent Whealy, ed.). Seed Savers Exchange, Inc: Decorah, Iowa.

Gibbons, E. (1962). Stalking the Wild Asparagus: Field Guide Edition.

…..Also if you feel so inclined watch this music masterpiece by Flight of the Conchords titled “Sugar Lumps”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ozSSseCh3U ……

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“people are from everywhere, why can plants be?”

You know when someone makes you feel so inspired that it hurts your bones? For years I thought I’d live in a cabin in the woods. Certainly there is nothing wrong with that, but Oliver made me realize something astoundingly momentous, yet simple. The cities need me because I care. Living in “the asshole of Capitalism” is important. Go to the worst place, and stabilize it. This guy uses nature to stick it to the man.

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Oliver Kellhammer himself, showing us the wonders of the natural world… with some pizzazz, of course.

As a social practice artist, he offers a perspective that is otherwise lacking in the world. He asserted that sometimes the right thing to do is nothing. Now this doesn’t seem too shocking, until you consider that almost all environmental restoration work places value judgements on which plants to keep and which plants to save without much reflection. Oliver continually questioned why we valorize certain plants over others. I have spent so much of my time focusing on needing to keep native plants native. Now it’s essential to point out that plants can, and have been, culturally significant for thousands of years. Many people have been forcefully dispossessed from their ways of life, and as such, the plants which were integral to it. BUT it’s also important to consider that the world is changing.

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A glacial erratic. Proof that hey, wow, the earth changes.

To keep the forest native is essentially gardening, and as such, Oliver rightfully claims intervention to be a moral question. “Shit really is hitting the fan now, in all spheres.” According to Oliver, the most important issue is going to be climate change. Some native plants aren’t handling it too well, and maybe won’t make it. However, other similar plants can fill those niches, while still contributing to biodiversity. For example, he thinks Thuja plicata (Western Red Cedar) unfortunately won’t survive, while California Redwoods will flourish here. This is an ethical concern, which unsettles my tummy. Then again, 10,000 years ago nothing was native. Perhaps we could use plants that were native 50 million years ago, indicated by fossils, because the earth changed then too. It’s all trial and error now, baby.

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Remember to look up.

 

Is all biodiversity equally valuable?

Essentially, what I gathered from this magical man is that we need to exploit our youth and passion while we have it, and refrain from running away. The problem can and should be the solution, and we need to find better ways of caring for ourselves and each other as we, justifiably, all freak out. Just like plants, people and animals don’t stay the same, nor should they. Certainly we cannot escape the value judgements we place on the world around us. That said, we should ensure those values are informed, and be willing to change them when cease to be useful. There is no such thing as a ‘bad plant,’ so we shouldn’t racialize them (JUST AS WE SHOULDN’T RACIALIZE PEOPLE! I MEAN COME ON ,WE ALL ARE EQUALLY DESERVING OF LOVE AND ACCEPTANCE). Plants that come from other places aren’t inherently evil. We need to shift existing power relationships, and create alternatives to them. So do things without permission, keep the pressure on, and move forward (what a wise guy)! Oliver concluded that we have to be prepared to lose, but the struggle is worth it. The earth is going to be fine long after we’re gone, but hey, why not try to save ourselves.

“Don’t lose hope, there’s always something in the world that will eat all the shit you do.”

When People ARE Permaculture

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Brent showing us his beautiful garden.

Today we toured around some orchards and food systems with Brent, the longest standing Linneaean, having been here for over thirty years. You can tell he lives and breathes this farm, though it isn’t intense – it’s just in his bones. The way he thinks, acts, and sees the world demonstrates what I feel to be the best parts of Permaculture. Part of that, of course, is not taking yourself – or anything, really – too seriously. It is prudent to remember that this is my interpretation of how he presented his perspective, and I do not claim to be speaking for him.

One of the first things I noticed is how Brent seems to see the principles, and practices of Permaculture everywhere in the world (caring for people, caring for the planet, observe and interact, obtain a yield, accept feedback, value diversity, creatively respond to change… I could go on). In this sense, they are not limited to their context, nor should they be. He tried many farming practices, and yet he is not ashamed to move on, or admit when something doesn’t work. Therefore, he seems to engage in a perpetual game of problem solving. Experimentation is key, but that only works if one keeps an open mind. Also, resilience is fostered by diversity – even within a species. For example, he insisted incessantly that one should have different varieties of each fruit – like several apple varieties. This protects against disease, for though one may fall victim to it, some may survive. 

Further, he seems to notice when our interference ceases to be helpful, and explains that rather than beekeeping, one can instead create a healthy ecosystem with flowers that bees want to visit. Also, observation of species behavior or presence show what is going on around you. For example, he noted that once you see the Stellar Jays and squirrels in the hazelnut trees, it is time to harvest them. The world talks.

As mentioned, he wasn’t shy about critiquing Permaculture, and that is essential. He didn’t dismiss it of course, but being able to notice cracks in something will allow you to patch them. Further, the problem is not always a problem. He didn’t seem worried about branches growing sideways rather than up, for that makes the branches easier to reach. He also mentioned how anytime he can get away from the garden, he goes exploring, This seems to underlie a deep understanding that we are never done learning, observing and experiencing. Also, somehow, he turned my opinion around on Scotchbroom. Sometimes hearing someone’s story turns a lot of things. Although there is a whole world in our garden, there is still a whole world out there too (fractals?). 

Some direct quotes:”It’s kind of a mess, but it works.” and “I’m not very good at being obsessive.”

Thanks Brent. Though I’m sure you wouldn’t wish for me to say that you ARE Permaculture, what I mean is that you are thoughtful, and inspiring.