"Possum up the 'simmontree, Connie on the ground, Coonie said to 'Possum: "Shame them 'simmons down." Folk song

As the folk song suggests, you'll have a lot of competition for one of nature's sweetest gifts, the wild persimmon. It will soon be time to pick them, and in your country rambles you should now see persimmon trees laden with the small, round, orange, plum-like fruit. The trees are smallish, though an old-timer may grow to the size of an apple tree. Mostly, though, you'll find thickets of small trees along the edges of woodlands where the sun penetrates.And when you find a persimmon tree or thicket, you'll have to keep watch and hurry to pick the fruit just after the first good frost.

Raccoons, opossums, birds and deer all relish persimmons. There's always enough to share with these woodland neighbors, but for your purpose you'll want fruit that has not been packed by the birds or nibbled by the other persimmon lovers.

After a good frost, the fruit will shrivel and wrinkle slightly, but this in no way harms it. The tree-ripening after frost markedly reduces the unforgettable astringent taste of a green persimmon. When it's time, pick the best fruit off the trees or off the ground if the fruit has fallen before you get ot it. You'll need a lot of persimmons if you're going to make one of America's oldest and most delicious desserts: persimmon pudding.

Pulping a batch of persimmons is a chore you won't soon forget. It is slow and sticky beyond belief. I've tried everything anyone has suggested to simplify this pesky job, but the only thing you can do is get to it and press the rinsed persimmons through a sieve, separating the pulp from the skin and seeds. Persimmon pulp is stickier than wallpaper paste and has a way of getting on your clothes, in your hair and on the ceiling if you're too vigorous with the pulping. If this discourages you and You're unable to "pull a Huck Finn" and convince someone else to pulp the persimmons, take note: Persimmons are delicious eaten just as you picked them. If you're stouthearted and determined to have that delicacy, persimmon pudding, proceed. Don't say I didn't warn you.

I have, on lazy occasions, used Japanese persimmons, which are large, orange or red persimmons sometimes available at the supermarket or sometimes from a neighbor's garden. But the flavor simply is not quite the same, and that's cheating, anyway. I have found that by chilling the persimmons in the freezer very briefly it's slightly easier to pulp them. However, persimmon pulp and the finished pudding freeze very well. PERSIMMON PUDDING 2 cups persimmon pulp 3 eggs, beaten 1 3/4 cups milk 2 cups sifted flour 1/2 teaspoon soda 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 teaspon nutmeg 1 1/2 cups sugar 3 tablespoons melted butter

Mix persimmon pulp, beaten eggs and milk. Sift dry ingredients together and pour liquid mixture into them. Stir in melted butter. Pour into a 6 x 9 shallow, oiled pan to depth of about two inches, Bake at 300 degrees for about 60 minutes. When cool, cut in squares and serve plain or with whipped cream. OLD FASHIONED PERSIMMON PUDDING 1 gallon persimmons, pulped 1 cup milk 1 cup buttermilk 1 cup butter, melted 3 large eggs 2 cups sugar 1teaspoon soda 1 teaspoon vanilla Cinnamon (optional) 3 cups flour

Stir persimmon, milk and buttermilk through a sieve. Add remaining ingredients. Mix together and bake at 375 degrees or until pudding pulls away from the sides of the 6 x 9 pan. (this pudding, too, should be baked in an oiled, shallow pan about 45 minutes. The batter should be about 2 inches deep.)

Persimmon pudding is very rich, especially if topped with whipped cream (and it really should be) so small servings are in order. Persimmon pudding is a festive holiday dessert and is especially suitable as a fine finish for a game dinner.