Texas Persimmon (Diospyros texana, Mexican Persimmon, Chapote ) is a very common shrub or tree here in Central, West, and South Texas. It can be found growing in thickets or mixed in with other trees in woodlands. It is very easy to spot with its smooth gray trunks and branches. There are male and female trees so there will only be fruit on the female trees. This makes finding fruit more challenging since you can’t assume that each tree will have fruit. Instead you have to wander around looking for the black fruit on the trees. Even then you will find only a few ripe fruit among the many green fruit. If you find a small tree you can pull off the fruit by hand. If the branches are too high or thick to bend down, you can put down a tarp and shake the branch. I tried shaking the branches without a tarp but I couldn’t spot the black fruit once they fell on the ground. The best method I have found for gathering a sufficient number of Texas Persimmon fruit is to pick the green fruit when there are already ripe fruit on the tree. The fruit will begin to ripen at your home within several days. I picked three buckets of green fruit and within a week all the fruit had ripened. I do caution that if you utilize this method that you be sure that the fruit is ripe enough that it is soft to the touch. Unripe Texas Persimmon fruit, even when black, will give you very strong burning sensation in your mouth. You will probably prefer to wear gloves when picking the ripe fruit because if it is very ripe it will squish in your hands leaving a dark stain on your hands. It has been used as a black dye, some even using it in their hair. My neighbor has a Texas persimmon tree extending over his sidewalk which creates a huge mess each summer. His mess is my bonanza. Each fruit has several large seeds with a little pulp. By the way, the fruit is also eaten by birds, javelina, coyotes, raccoons, o’possoms , and skunks. So expect competition!
Since gathering the fruit by hand did not produce enough Mexican persimmons yesterday I decided to look again today. I went to a location I had been told that I might the fruit I sought. I did find the fruit but I walked about 2 miles looking for it. I found that after awhile I could spot the right trees due to their shape and color of leaves. Then I had to find out if there was fruit. Most of the time there was little fruit. But I did find two trees loaded with fruit. Fortunately they were located where I was able to put down my tarp and shake the tree. Of course one gets debris with this method but it is a lot faster than picking one by one. I probably looked like a street person to the people passing by but I knew why I was there even though they didn’t. By the time I had picked up the last fruit it was noon which meant I had been looking for fruit for 3 hours. It was hot and I was thirsty. I did spot lots of agarita bushes for next year, in addition to the Texas persimmon fruit.
After all this effort I wasn’t even sure how the jelly would come out. I was assured from my searches on-line that the fruit was edible but I had found no recipes for making jelly of Texas persimmons. After washing and sorting out the fruit that was not soft I had 12 cups of fruit. I placed the fruit in my large kettle and added water. I mashed the fruit, and then brought it to boil for 10 minutes. I then pressed out the juice with my food mill. I then poured that juice into cheese cloth. It certainly was thick. I ended up with 6 cups of juice but I only need 4 cups so I poured out the extra juice. I boiled the juice with lemon juice. I then added the pectin. I added 1/2 teaspoon of margarine to prevent the foam from forming. After once again bringing it to a hard boil I added the sugar. I brought it once more to a hard boil but this time only for 1 minute.
Pour jelly into freezer containers. After letting the contents cool freeze the jelly.
Oh, you probably want to know how it tasted. I was pleasantly surprised. It had an unusual flavor but nice. The closest flavor I could identify it with was blackberry jelly. Others who tasted it thought it tasted like plum jelly. The jelly looks like wine in the glass. I now make this jelly every year, especially since I now know where to find plenty of the fruit.