Thursday, 11 December 2014

The (persimmon) Tree of Knowledge

Do you even know what a persimmon tastes like?

I had no idea, but I thought I knew what they looked like.  I am a biologist who identifies trees for a living, after all.  My sweetheart and I were recently on vacation on the U.S. Atlantic Coast where we encountered an enticing tree with succulent orange fruits hanging from its boughs.  We were in a state park, so we knew that we shouldn't pluck the fruit of the tree. However, like any good omnivores, curiosity took hold of us.  This story may be familiar to you.

No, we were not visited by a talking serpent, banished from the park, or smited (smitten? smote?).  Instead we experienced an indescribably unpleasant mouth experience.  It was truly shocking.  Have you ever eaten a cotton ball soaked in hydrogen peroxide?  Don't.  You can just eat an unripe persimmon instead.  According to Wikipedia, which I checked out later that night to make sure we weren't going to die, I learned that persimmons: are unpalatably astringent (or "furry" tasting) if eaten before completely softened.  You don't say.  I also learned that if we ate too many unripe persimmons we could develop an adhesive "foodball" in our stomachs.  The stuff of gum-swallowing children's nightmares.

Beware the beckoning fruit
I just finished Michael Pollan's book "The Omnivore's Dilemma".  The dilemma is this: when you are an animal that has evolved to be able to eat many, many things (in contrast to animals like koalas, who can only eat eucalyptus leaves, or monarch caterpillars, who only eat milkweed), how do you choose what to eat?  My sweetheart and I had undertaken the timeless omnivore's experiment when confronted with a novel food item: try a tiny bit, see if it tastes good, and wait to see if you get sick. Very much like the "mindfulness classic". 

This problem was much more fraught when we were foraging on the savannah in our loincloths.  Today we are surrounded by such an abundance of food that our omnivorous brains say "Yay! Eat everything!  It's ALL good!".  And so, we are a society of mindless eaters.  Surprise?  

I had forgotten about the persimmon experience until I discovered the online mindful eating tracker, created by Pavel Somov, the author who inspired me to begin this blog a year ago.  A woman describes the taste of eating a RIPE persimmon, for the first time.  Very, very different from my experience, but both were mindful in their own special way.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Tell me about your experience with mindful eating