When we bought our home ten years ago, our neighbors Dan and Adrian generously offered to let me pick persimmons from their trees. They have three fuyu (the flat kind) persimmon trees that Dan says he originally thought were suppose to be ‘dwarf’ trees. They’re over 20 feet tall.
Dan and Adrian knew that Asians have a thing for persimmons because for years, a local Chinese lady had been harvesting the persimmons from their trees. They didn’t know her name but she always left a box of Ritz crackers to express her thanks. Seriously. She came with family members, I was told. After we arrived, the Chinese Ritz cracker lady got to harvest from only the front yard tree. We got the two trees in the back, Dan said.
Some years there were tons of persimmons. My husband and I would get out a ladder and he’d climb up and snip the fruit or branches (we did a little trimming for the neighbors). I ducked below and gathered the fruit. We’re not outdoorsy people, and standing on wobbly ladders stretched out to nab a piece of fruit is not our thing. But we did it for my parents – who’d swoon over the tree-ripened fruit that covered their kitchen counters. My parents dehydrated the persimmons because there were so many. They gifted some back to the neighbors one year.
Inevitably, my mom would say, “Why do you two do go through the trouble? It’s so much work, and dangerous. You should be working. What if one of you falls?” Though we had wondered the same things, we’d just look at my mother, roll our eyes slightly, then say that we pick the persimmons because she likes them, because we sort of enjoy to pick the fruit, because our neighbors say that the fruit is for my mom.
The Chinese Ritz cracker lady usually harvested her tree when no one is home at Dan and Adrian’s. A couple of years ago, she was doing her usual picking and another neighbor came up to her and told her she was trespassing. We noticed that she didn’t come back this year because her tree stood unpicked. Hopefully, she found another tree to harvest as well as another recipient of the box of Ritz crackers.
So the fruit hung on the branches and as the season wore on, the golden-orange leaves dropped and revealed a medium harvest of fruit. My husband and I would do our daily walk past the trees and I’d remind myself, “We have to pick persimmons soon for my parents.”
We didn’t get around to it soon enough. One afternoon, a local community group of foragers were swarming around the neighbors yard with ladders and professional picking tools. At first glance I spotted an Asian woman and thought the Chinese Ritz lady had returned with gusto. She and her crew were picking from my trees! The nerve.
I walked up to one of them and said, “Are you harvesting from all the trees? This family lets me pick from the back ones.”
They’d gotten permission and arranged it ahead of time, the woman informed me. She looked slightly alarmed but held her ground.
Damn, we weren’t fast enough. Before I was in friendly competition with the an Asian family for the prized fruit and now, it was a team of athletic backyard foragers. My husband tried soothing my defeated soul, saying that my parents had enjoyed decades of persimmons, that we can’t pick them every year. How many persimmons can one person eat? By the time we finished our daily walk to the grocery store, I felt a little better.
The foragers were loading up their bikes and minivan with persimmons. My head was a little low as we passed them by. Dan screamed out in his baritone voice, “Hey you two, come over here.” For a flash moment I thought my not-so-kind words to the forager woman had gotten me into trouble.
Instead, Dan handed over two boxes of persimmons and a few pomegranates. He had the foragers set aside some for us to bring to my parents this week.
I was -- to say the least -- very thankful. And a little embarrassed. But ultimately, I was delighted and relieved to have such nice, thoughtful neighbors.
Happy Thanksgiving leftovers!