Bad winter to come —so says the persimmons

American persimmons grow on high, rocky ground over much of eastern Kansas.

American persimmons grow on high, rocky ground over much of eastern Kansas.

Forget the National Weather Service, Accuweather and all those other fancy forecasting conglomerations….Steve Harvey says his personal weather forecasters are saying it’s going to be a danged hard winter.

His forecasters, by the way, are persimmon fruit on the hunting lands he manages in Bourbon County.

American persimmon trees, also known as opossumwood, grow over most of the eastern and central U.S., including much of the eastern one-third of Kansas.  I’ve seen some in western Butler County, a few miles north of Kellogg and Santa Fe Lake Road. They’re normally found on rocky hilltops, growing in clusters about the size of an average two-car garage or smaller. The trees are normally about wrist-thick, and 10 to 15 feet tall.

Country lore says that if the inside of a persimmon seed holds something shaped like a spoon, a hard winter is on the way.

Country lore says that if the inside of a persimmon seed holds something shaped like a spoon, a hard winter is on the way.

They produce a sweet fruit that appears to be like a cross between a date and a plum, though about the size of  a ping-pong ball. When ripe, the fruit is orange and sweet. When literally green, one bite will leave you puckering for quite a while, and never biting a green persimmon again. Historically, people either ate ripe persimmons raw or made them into puddings. I have friends in Elk County who turn persimmons into some mighty tasty, and potent, wine, too.

Persimmons are hugely popular with wildlife, and deer can often be seen feeding in persimmon groves this time of the year when the ripe fruit is dropping to the ground. A heavy wind can also shake the thin trees enough to drop more fruit to the ground. Raccoons often climb the trees to knock down the fruit. Opossums like persimmons a lot, too.

A persimmon grove in Bourbon County is loaded with fruit.

A persimmon grove in Bourbon County is loaded with fruit.

Stopping to snack on some fruit at one of the many groves that was loaded with persimmons last weekend, Harvey, a native from southern Arkansas, pulled out a pocket knife and sliced into a seed. He and Wayne Simien, Sr., said they’d long been told that if the inside of the seed held what looked like a small spoon it meant a lot of snow and cold would come this winter. If the inside held what looked to be a fork, the winter would be mild.

Wouldn’t you know it, the permission seeds Harvey tested had the smallish spoons.

Wayne Simien, Sr., eats a persimmon, a wild fruit much like a date.

Wayne Simien, Sr., eats a persimmon, a wild fruit much like a date.

So I guess we’d best bundle up since the persimmons say it’s going to be a bad winter. One thing about it, their accuracy rate can’t be much worse than those of the major weather services.