November 4, 2011
The first morning light on Fuyu persimmons in my kitchen.
“Autumn hasn’t truly arrived until the persimmon tree’s foliage turns to sherbet shades, rivaling the best New England has to offer. By December, after the leaves have dropped, the tree bears its final spectacle: a canopy of limbs ornamented with nothing more than the season’s last fruit.” Lili Singer in the LA Times 9-27-07
I share this memory of persimmons. In San Juan Capistrano, just as the southbound freeway curves left and the mission is ahead, glancing right I recall persimmon trees silhouetted against a winter sky. The trees were on the Bathgate Ranch where the family farmed the staple crops of avocados, citrus and persimmons from 1924 until the 1990’s.
My grandparents, Ralph and Jean Bell, who came to Laguna Beach in 1926, were friends of the Bathgates. Every Christmas my grandmother made persimmon pudding from Hachiya persimmons, served with choice of lemon or hard sauce. Did that recipe come from Mrs. Bathgate? I’ll never know.
The Bathgate Ranch in San Juan Capistrano was sold in 1989. Billy Bathgate, who was raised on the ranch died in 2001. Now, Jim Bathgate raises Fuyu persimmons in Valley Center, here in San Diego County. The persimmons in the image might be from his ranch.
Fuyu is the Japanese word for winter.