Perfect time of year for persimmon bread!

Just before Thanksgiving I took advantage of our last warm weather and hosted a Neighborhood Potluck on a Sunday afternoon and invited my dear friend, artist Eta, up from Marin to join us. She arrived with this in hand–a lovely gift of persimmons from her garden! She had tucked them into a simple basket, nesting in blue tissue paper and popped in some sprigs of nandina berries and some little autumnal mums, making for a delightful presentation. Lucky me! I told her I planned to make persimmon bread and she asked for the recipe, so that request is prompting this post, which I think both she and all of you will appreciated. This recipe is a keeper and has served me and my family over many years.

A word on persimmons! There are two kinds which we see in California this time of year. The hachiya, with which this bread is made, and the fuyu, which is smaller, is not elongated underneath, making it kind of squat, and much firmer. One does not bake with it, to my knowledge. You simply munch its yumminess down once it’s ripe. Seen from above, they look the same.

Rich Persimmon Bread

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8 C. loaf pan.

Whisk together:

1 1/2 C. unbleached white flour
1/4 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 1/2 t. cinnamon
1 1/2 t. ginger
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. cloves

Measure 1/3 C. milk and add 1/2 t. vanilla.

In a large bowl beat 8 T. unsalted butter (i.e., 1/4 lb. which is one stick).

Add 1 C. sugar and 1/3 C. brown sugar and beat for at least 3-4 minutes.

Add two eggs, one at a time.

Add 1 C. persimmon, which you have dug out of its skin.

Now add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk mixture.

Then fold in 1/2 C. golden raisins and 1/2 C. chopped pecans.

Spoon batter into your loaf pan, and spread evenly. Bake about one hour. You will know when it’s done when a clean fork comes out clean after puncturing center top. 🙂

Allow bread to cool for at least ten minutes prior to cutting.

I love this bread and so does everyone I share it with. It’s rich and deeply satisfying. I hope you will make some and enjoy!

Love and holiday warm wishes,
Kathryn xoxo

Kathryn and Eta

Book Notes: A bit of exciting news: in January I will be doing a Skype session with a book club in the UK who has chosen to read Plant Whatever Brings You Joy: Blessed Wisdom from the Garden together organized by dear friend Liz Watkin, whom I know through the gardening blogger community! I am thrilled with this opportunity to connect with readers abroad! I think it’s going to be great fun. If any of you belong to a book club and are interested in doing one of these I’d be happy to discuss with you! Lastly, I hope you will consider a copy of my book as a Christmas gift for anyone you think would enjoy. Thank you so much. XOXO

The Hollyhock Hotel

Hollyhock collection courtesy Jonathan Sheppard of Sheppard Seed Company, UK

Hollyhock season is nearly over as we enter the fall season. I have enjoyed immensely their soft beauty in my garden. They now bloom annually along the side fence, bringing charm, grace, and color to what used to be a long empty stretch of nothing of much interest. And what I find particularly enchanting about them are the pollinators who flit among them, beginning early in the morning. The bumblebees are always the earliest to arrive and the last to leave in the evening. If they leave. For there are always, happily, those who never bother to return to their hives or nests, but opt to simply spend the night tucked into the beauty and comfort of a bed of soft petals. Finding one of them curled safely around a yellow center is always an exquisite delight only to be found at the Hollyhock Hotel.

Sound asleep inside the Hollyhock Hotel

California carpenter bee

The mother loved them years ago;
Beside the fence they used to grow,
And though the garden changed each year
And certain blooms would disappear
To give their places in the ground
To something new that mother found,
Some pretty bloom or rosebush rare–
The hollyhocks were always there.

~Edgar Guest

California carpenter bee and honeybee at work

Red hollyhock from my garden…

Hollyhocks, as you most likely know, take time to cultivate, though they are easy enough to grow. Seeds that sprout will not flower the first year. But once established they will readily self-sow. I do not find them fussy, though I know not to water them if there is not time left in the daylight hours for their leaves to dry out, as they will rust. If you do find yours have developed rust (which will most likely appear on lower leaves first), cut those leaves off and get them off your property. I personally have the practice of looking at each stalk every morning, cherishing their beauty, and pulling off the leaves that have gone yellow. I then shower them at that early time of day so there is plenty of time for them to dry out in the sun. I am grateful that once established they will generously offer their beauty and charm for years to come.

Here’s another of mine along the redwood fence with the Neighbor’s Cat keeping me company.

And I will close this post with another special photo from Jonathan Sheppard, which I am using with his permission. So pretty! He is making it his mission to have hollyhocks acknowledged and protected in the UK. What a gift to gardeners.

I do hope you have tried hollyhocks in your garden and are enjoying them as much as we do!

Love and garden blessings,
Kathryn xoxo

Blog and Book Notes: I must share that this post honors 12 years of posting on Plant Whatever Brings You Joy. Many thanks to my many longtime subscribers! I also want to thank the many folks who have read my book Plant Whatever Brings You Joy: Blessed Wisdom from the Garden and posted their loving reviews on Amazon. There are now three dozen and nearly every one is 5-star! How gratifying for me as an author that you love what I have written. Thank you!

The Timeless Magic of Itoh Peonies

tree peony, photo courtesy of Phillip Oliver

All gardeners love peonies and are usually familiar with the gorgeous tree peony, pictured above and the common herbacious peony, pictured below. I had a white herbacious peony planted next to my Grandmother’s grave in Utah, and have always been glad I made that choice.

Shirley Temple peony

Now, enter the itoh peony, fashioned in the late ’40s by a hobbyist breeder in Tokyo, Toichi Itoh, who successfully crossed the two I’ve just mentioned–the tree peony and the herbacious one we are more familiar with–after experimenting literally with thousands of attempts. And, sadly, he dies before seeing his creation come into blossom. (I’m going to imagine that he was, indeed, watching when it happened years later, and was profoundly pleased and moved.) Fortunately his widow was contacted by a peony lover in America, who secured a few from her and went on to be part of its development and dissemination. When the itoh became available to the public only the rich (or obsessed) could afford, as they cost up to a thousand dollars per plant.

Fortunately they have now been introduced to nurseries. So let me introduce you to the itoh peony which I myself just discovered in a local nursery in Mendocino County, called Whispering Winds. I was blown away by their beauty and had to share with all of you.

Itoh peonies grow up to a three feet high and three and a half feet wide.

Gardeners will be happy to hear that itoh peonies need not be staked as herbacious peonies need be, as their stems are stronger, having been crossed with the tree peony.

Are you swooning yet?

The itoh peony can yield up to 50 blossoms per season! That’s a lot of beauty to look forward to.

Landscapers in particular will be delighted they can reassure their clients that itoh peonies are deer resistant! They are also not fussy, and will do well in full sun with well drained soil. Also handy–costs have dropped and can be found for $50-100 per plant.

Also very good news that itoh peonies make good cut flowers! What a perfect gift for Mother’s Day!

Love and garden blessings!
Kathryn xoxo

Book News: Dearest readers, I have begun doing podcast interviews again, and was just featured on Dr. Paula Joyce’s wonderful show “Uplift Your Life”. I was delighted to be a guest on her show and am pleased to be able to offer you the link to an MP3 of the interview which will enable you to listen by simply clicking here. I do hope you enjoy!
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