Bob Mitchell: They're all good. Try some.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

This time of the year, seasonal Ozarks produce is becoming available, of which some of our newcomers may not be aware. Some of the older heads might have forgotten. Each and every one of them can be a real treat in their own way, providing some of them are handled correctly.


First off is the Ozark persimmon, which grows on trees -- normally found in fence rows in our rural areas. They aren't located in midfield, because most of these areas have been cleared for growing pasture for landowners' cattle.

The persimmon is one of those local fruits off a tree that must be handled correctly. That is to say there should have been a hard frost arriving in the area in advance of the picking. A couple of sure ways to discover if they are ripe for consuming is if, following the frost, they are bright orange and might have fallen from the tree of their own accord.

A factor of their being on the ground should not deter anyone wanting to collect them, just for a sample or for gathering to use in an old-time recipe.

In some instances, hikers and hunters are the ones most likely to discover some persimmon trees in someone's fence row, which would make it a necessity to gain permission to enter another person's property. A problem with going to an unwanted location might be that this person is planning on collecting the persimmons for their own consumption.

Remember, first must come a hard freeze if the persimmons are ready for enjoyment. If you are ahead of time, and you attempt to sample a green persimmon, it will let you know that it is not ready for eating by giving you one of the biggest puckers you have even known.

Turnip patches

One of the rewards that was once available to quail hunters of this area from this time forward was the possibility of running onto a good turnip patch while following their dogs. In fact, a number of hunting routes that my group once followed was purposely scheduled to pass near a known patch that held the sweetest of those available.

There was nothing better, after a long walk through brush land that once was in this area to hold bobwhites, than coming upon a well-planted patch of turnips.

Never mind that they had dirt on them after pulling. That was quickly erased by putting the pocket knife to work and peeling a freshly-picked turnip. It might even have been the rule of thumb to pull a couple out of the ground and store the second, pealed or not, in a pocket for later enjoyment.

In those days, there seemed to be an endless availability of turnip patches in the areas covered by hunting groups that went together at a time long past that disappeared along with the bobwhites in our area.

Then there's walnuts

A Barry County crop that might be in danger of disappearing one of these days is the Black Walnut. With the clear cutting of some walnut trees in this area, this crop might someday be extinct in this neck of the woods. Trucks hauling these walnut logs and other species out of the area sometimes cause traffic jams at stopping points in the county.

Although the Black Walnut is more of an economy factor for those picking them, access to the meat that is most wanted, and not easy enough for some folks. But, their commercial use for some hullers and processors put coins in the pockets of those who are willing to pick them off the ground.

Often, it is not difficult to be driving down a rural road and discover homeowners who are interested in hulling and cracking their own walnuts. They will probably have those they have picked off the ground on their place or another location in the road for their own travel, or for others to drive over and provide the hulling for them.

Gone are the apples

Back in the days of Vollenweider Orchards, fall meant the harvest of several varieties of apples. These were the best tasting of this fruit to be found anywhere. When Fred Vollenweider moved his operation to a sizable operation from Seymour to near Exeter, it meant employment opportunity for some and a close proximity for acquiring the best that was.

During hunting trips to other states, local hunters usually carried a box of Vollenweider apples for distribution to those that supplied the hunting grounds. Believe it for the truth, they frequently asked for their sack of Red Delicious before giving permission to hunt!

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat.

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