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According to Ozarks folklore, seeds in a native Ozark fruit can predict what kind of winter we’ll have. A horticulture specialist with the University of Missouri Extension decided to collect the fruit to see what he could find out about our weather in the next few months.
While it’s not research-based, Patrick Byers says he thinks he knows how the weather will shape up this winter—at least if Ozarks folklore proves true.
Byers, a horticulture specialist with the University of Missouri Extension in Greene County, says, according to folklore, if you look at embryos within the seeds of persimmons, you might get an indication of how cold or mild it will be and how much snow might fall.
"The embryos are generally one of three shapes. They're either shaped like a spoon, they're shaped like a knife or they're shaped like a fork, and according to folklore, the spoon is an indication of how much snowfall to expect, and the fork or the knife is an indication of winter temperatures--the fork being mild temperatures and the knife being sharp or cold temperatures," he said.
Byers collected fruit from persimmon trees in Lawrence, Stone, Wright and Webster Counties. He extracted the seeds from the fruit and randomly selected 15 seeds from each tree.
Fifty percent of the seeds had spoons indicating average snowfall. Byers says the knife shapes were found in 23 percent of the fruit, which, according to folklore, means we’ll have colder than normal temperatures.
But persimmons are good for more than just predicting the weather.
"A good persimmon is a wonderful thing. The flesh is soft when it's ripe. It has a rich flavor and wonderful aroma. You can eat the persimmon fresh or you can use it in a variety of baked goods," he said.
But if you use persimmons, make sure they’re ripe. Unripe persimmons have tannins in the flesh that interact with proteins in your saliva.
"And if you eat an unripe persimmon it will cause your mouth to feel like it's full of cotton," he said.
According to Byers, a persimmon is ripe when it’s soft and separates easily from the tree. He spreads a sheet under the tree and gently shakes the branches. The persimmons that come down are the ones that are ripe.
Once ripe, they don’t keep well. They should be eaten right away or refrigerated for no more than a day or two.
You can freeze persimmons by spooning out the flesh of each one as it ripens and storing it in the freezer in an airtight container. When you have enough, the fruit is often used to make bread, muffins, cookies, cakes and pudding.
For KSMU News, I’m Michele Skalicky.