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Remembering Persimmon Pete

2011 October 27

Pete Ivey contemplates a persimmon. Photo by Roland Giduz

By Ken Moore
Flora Columnist
Right here in the middle of persimmon season, I’m realizing that I don’t remember ever seeing such a bountiful crop from our native fruit tree, Diospyros virginiana. This fall’s heavy crop on trees along roads around town makes me aware of numerous specimens I’ve never before noticed.

Ever year during ’simmon season, I remember “Persimmon Pete” Ivey, who for 20 years was director of the UNC News Bureau. Pete died back in 1975, and though during those years I remember folks talking about Pete’s persimmon recipes, I never met him and I’m sad about that.

These Alamance County persimmons have breadth of more than 1.5 inches. Photo by Ken Moore

And every year during ’simmon season, I also remember Roland Giduz, lifelong Chapel Hill resident, 14-year member of the Chapel Hill Board of Aldermen and longtime photographer, reporter and columnist for the Chapel Hill News Leader. When Roland died in January 2009, our towns lost a wonderful friend, a man who so enthusiastically kept the community personalities, traditions and stories alive in our consciousness.

In the late 1950s, Roland described Pete Ivey’s enthusiasm for persimmons in the old Chapel Hill News Leader. Stories of “Persimmon Pete,” the self-proclaimed “patron saint of persimmonry,” and his persimmon recipes became legendary.

You’ll enjoy reading about Pete and his persimmons, and more, in Roland Giduz’s Who’s Gonna Cover ’Em Up?!: Chapel Hill Uncovered – 1950-1985.

Following Pete’s death, Roland carried on the “persimmonry” tradition, going so far as to initiate a campaign to have the persimmon declared the state fruit. Sadly, not enough enthusiasts gathered around that cause. The scuppernong grape (Vitus rotundifolia) was declared the official State Fruit in 2001. But scuppernong is a vine, so it’s appropriate to pick up the torch and lobby for the persimmon to become our official State Native Fruit Tree.

In the meantime, persimmons will be dropping fruit for several more weeks, so find yourself a tree and make daily visits to collect those ripened fruits from the ground before the possums and other critters beat you to it. Make certain the persimmon is ripe, soft to the touch; you’ll never put an un-ripened one in your mouth a second time!

A robust dwarf persimmon tree grows in rural Alamance County. Photo by Ken Moore

Most folks use persimmons for pudding and bread recipes, or beer. I prefer simply eating a ripe one as it is, and the pure pulp makes a great ice cream topping. Save the flat, long-oval, dark-brown seeds and plant them in the ground where you want your own persimmon trees. Plant several seeds some feet apart, for you need male and female trees if you want fruit.

I have my eye on what may be a dwarf tree growing along a roadside near Alamance Battleground. It produces abundantly every year and has the largest, most delicious fruit I’ve ever tasted. I’m taking Matt Gocke, the botanical garden’s tree propagator extraordinaire, to see that tree. I hope Matt will succeed in producing lots of offspring from that tree, and I’d like to call them all, “Persimmon Pete’s Delight.”

What I am missing is Pete Ivey’s persimmon recipe. Somehow I’ve missed obtaining it. I hope one of you out there has or remembers it. Please forward it to so it can be shared.

Editor’s Note: Following this Flora column on persimmons, the family of Pete Ivey shared his persimmon pudding recipe.
Persimmon Pete’s Persimmon Pudding

A caricature of Pete Ivey drawn by Bud Brexler, director of security for N.C. Memorial Hospital, for Pete’s 20th anniversary as director of the UNC News Bureau on Sept. 1, 1975

Persimmon pudding is good hot or cold, and some like to add vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Pete Ivey often froze it and his kids would eat it right out of the freezer, little sliver by little sliver, hoping the shrinking delicacy would not be noticed.

Special thanks to Persimmon Pete’s daughter, Helene Ivey, for sharing his favorite recipe.

2 cups persimmon pulp (about two dozen persimmons strained through a colander)
3 eggs
1 ¼ cups sugar
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup melted butter
2½ cups whole milk
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg

Beat all ingredients together well and pour into a 9-by-9-inch well-greased baking dish. Bake at 325 degrees for about an hour or until firm.

Email Ken Moore at Find previous Ken Moore Citizen columns at The Annotated Flora (

One Response
  1. November 11, 2011

    Persimmon bourbon brown bread! Oh does that bring out the best in persimmons.

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