January 2007

Of California persimmons and Coconut Bliss

By Art Goodtimes

PERSIMMONS … When I went to visit my dad in California this past autumn, his front-yard persimmon tree was fruiting. Usually we come in the spring or summer, but because we’d made a fall trip, we were able to harvest several bags full of persimmons to bring home to Colorado ... One interesting thing about this unusual fruit is that it ripens slowly. Very slowly. Two months later and I still have ripening persimmons scattered over every available nook and shelf of my living room and bedroom … Occasionally we eat one that looks like it’s quite overripe. It’s not. Ripe, persimmons are incredibly sweet and delicious. Like pudding. But unripe, they’re loaded with tannins and quite astringent. And tough … My dad is a great fan of Luther Burbank and the idea of grafting one variety onto the stock of another. And, although he didn’t do it, his persimmon tree has two kinds of fruit growing on it. In fact, the tree is a veritable icon of Pacific Rim diversity. It’s a Japanese cultivar (Hachiya) of a Chinese persimmon tree (Diospyros kaki, or the Kaki Persimmon) that was brought to California from Portugal. Hachiya persimmons are among the sweetest, although they are very astringent when not fully ripened. Grafted on to the Hachiya is a nonastringent cultivar called Fuyu. Even unripe, they’re sweet … Diospyros, the genus name, derives from the Greek dios (cognate with the Latin deus for “god). It is a genitive form meaning “of Zeus” – Zeus being the chief god of the Greek pantheon. Pyros is Greek for “wheat,” deriving from the root pur- (meaning “fire”). Wheat was said to be flame-colored when ripe and was the staple of the Indo-European diet. Thus the scientific name for persimmon means something like the “fire-colored food of God” – making it a flamboyant cognate with chocolate’s caffeine-like theobromine, which literally means “food of God.” … The word persimmon is derived from putchamin, pasiminan, or pessamin, from an Algonquian language, Powhatan, of the eastern United States, meaning "a dry fruit.”

COCONUT BLISS … As part of my fall trip to the West Coast, I ran into my old Telluride Mushroom Festival staffer Tammy Davis up in Eugene, Ore., and a great new alternative icecream company she’s working for -- Larry and Luna’s Coconut Bliss. They make a vegan, non-dairy and non-soy frozen dessert delicacy that uses organic coconut milk and agave nector as principal ingredients. In fact, all its ingredients are organic. And its regular flavors are outrageous enough – dark chocolate, cherry amaretto, chiapas arabica decaf – but its specialty flavors are unbelievable – lavender wild blueberry, cinnamon chocolate flake, and peruvian espresso – and its seasonal flavors divine – coconut sunrise for spring, lakshmi’s luscious lime for summer, pumpkin spice for fall and bliss nog for winter. And those are only a sampling of their wild concoctions! Check the website for the full scoop, www.coconutbliss.com … Currently Coconut Bliss only available in western Oregon, from Portland to Ashland (and soon in Washington state), but I have a hunch this is a new product that’s going to take off around the country … Ben & Jerry’s, move over.

GUNNISON GROUSE … Dr. Bill Baker of the University of Wyoming found this quote from Aldo Leopold, and although he was talking about a different kind of grouse, I think it has some relevance to our own locally endangered species: “Everybody knows, for example, that the autumn landscape in the north woods is the land, plus a red maple, plus a ruffled grouse. In terms of conventional physics, the grouse represents only a millionth of either the mass or the energy of an acre. Yet subtract the grouse and the whole thing is dead. An enormous amount of some kind of motive power has been lost.”

SPEAKING OF DR. BAKER … He and Dr. Deb Paulsen have come out with a fascinating new natural history of our area, “The Nature of Southwestern Colorado: Recognizing Human Legacies and Restoring Natural Places” (University Press of Colorado, 2006). I’m just beginning to read the book and it seems to be a handbook for reinhabitation, as the bioregionalists like to speak about. What Gary Snyder said was the “real work” – learning to become native to a place. More to come about this essential tome.

SPEAKING OF BOOKS … After 20 years of performing instead of publishing, it looks like I’ll finally have a new book of poetry in print around the first of the new year, “As If the World Really Mattered” (La Alameda Press, Albuquerque, 2007) … I’m very excited, and it should be available at most local bookstores, or directly from La Alameda Press (www.laalamedapress. com) or the University of New Mexico Press (www.unmpress.com) … Here’s one of the blurbs from my buddy and North Beach poetry legend, Jack Mueller: “Poet, shaman, artist and activist, Art Goodtimes gives us poems that are precise and generous and true. They sing and bring us new marvels of understanding. Some poets work inside the tradition, others outside. Art Goodtimes is one of those rare maker poets that help define a fresh, evolving tradition. These are songs of Earth and our human condition that lift as they illuminate. They serve a larger purpose: the encounter of the real, the sacred and the moment. In the splendid mess we call “human,” Art Goodtimes catches the heart-wood we all need. He gives voice and song and poem to the wilderness of possibility rising. He reinvents and makes it new. You are holding poems of authentic engagement. Goodtimes knows a growing thing when he feels it, and has the skill to help it grow into your ear and heart and mind.” … This month’s Talking Gourd is an excerpt from the book.

Art Goodtimes is a San Miguel County commissioner.