Sunday, July 25, 2010

Bushcraft - Central Texas Style - Texas Persimmon

There are a great many things in Texas that will bite, sting, poke or poison you, but there are also a wide variety of resources that are available to help you survive. Being knowledgeable about what they are and where they occur will give you additional peace of mind in a survival situation. Texas persimmon is one such resource.

Texas persimmon (Diospyros texana Scheele Ebenaceae) is a member of the persimmon family and is very common in central and south Texas. It is a shrub or small tree that produces a round, fleshy fruit (up to about 1 inch in diameter) that is black and sweet when ripe. The ripe fruit is edible but contains quite a few seeds. Ripe fruit can usually be found beginning in late July and continuing into September. The fruit of the Texas persimmon was used as a food source, for its medicinal qualities and it's wood to manufacture tools. It was used extensively by many Native Americans. Texas persimmon is widespread and abundant throughout the plains region of South Texas. It is fairly common and is found growing wild in many brushy areas and hillsides all the way from Houston to the Big Bend area in West Texas. It can also be found as far south as Northeastern Mexico.


Its extremely tough wood was used by many Native Americans to make tools of various kinds, mainly for digging purposes. Tools made from persimmon wood have been identified in the Hinds Cave located near the Pecos River and the Shumla Cave on the Rio Grande River. The bark is smooth and gray and can often be seen peeling off in very thin pieces. The peeling bark can also be used as an excellent source of tinder for making fire. It is extremely drought tolerant and resistant to most diseases. It is also an excellent landscape plant for those who wish to plant Texas persimmons in their yard. The heart wood of Texas persimmon, which is found sometimes in larger trunks, is black and similar to another of its cousins, ebony (Diospyros ebenum). A large, mature Texas persimmon can reach heights of 25 to 30 feet or more. An example of a very tall Texas persimmon can be seen in the above picture.


Cherokees used the fruit and its astringent qualities to treat sores in the throat and mouth and also chewed the bark of the Texas persimmon to help alleviate heartburn. There is some evidence that seems to indicate that Comanches also commonly ate raw persimmons. One caution about the ripe fruit needs to be mentioned. The ripe fruit was also used as a dye to stain leather goods and will leave a brownish yellow stain on your hands and teeth. The stain on your hands will look like they have been swabbed with iodine. It's one of those "Been there and done that!" type of things. The picture above shows a fruit that was smashed on a small rock showing the dark pulp of a ripened fruit. Being ever so clever, a stick was used to smash it!


The fruit of Texas persimmon is similar to that of its eastern cousin, Diospyros virginiana. The main difference is that the Texas persimmon is a lot darker (almost black in color), more astringent and even more acidic than its relative. The fruits are found on the female trees and are edible once they have ripened. They have a very sweet flavor which is quite similar to prunes (please no "Will they keep you regular?" jokes!). The fruit of Texas persimmon is also a good source of vitamin A. The fruits are also consumed by a large variety of wildlife, including a number of birds and small animals.

Knowing your environment and your available resources can be a critical in a survival situation.

Got edible wild fruit?

Staying above the water line!

Riverwalker

6 comments:

Groundhog said...

Cool post! Are the little orange ones Kumquats? No idea how that's spelled.

riverwalker said...

To: Groundhog

The little orange ones are persimmons but just a different variety. The Texas persimmon is a black variety.

I also forgot to mention that the word Diospyros means "the fruit of the gods" in ancient Greek.

Thanks Groundhog!

RW

Anonymous said...

Very cool - a plant I need to seek and possibly cultivate on my property, free eats that grow wild in south Texas are a major asset - Thanks Riverwalker.

riverwalker said...

To: anonymous 5:44

They make nice additions to your yard and the multi-trunked limbs make quite an attractive bush or tree. Their drought tolerance is important since rainfall can be quite sparse in certain parts of Texas.

Don't expect your chainsaw blade to stay sharp if you try to cut one down (and you will need a chainsaw!) because their wood is quite hard.

They make an ornamental tree or bush similar to Crepe Myrtles without the rather prolific blooms that occur on the Crepe Myrtles.

Thanks anon.

RW

Terria Fleming said...

Very informative post, and great photos. I love the idea of growing fruit trees. Would persimmons grow in cooler climates, like Oregon?

riverwalker said...

To: Terria

They are good for zones 7 to 10 and actually tolerate the cold fairly well if dormant. A late spring frost could damage them though.

Thanks.

RW

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