Last week, we took a look at the Wooly Bear Caterpillar and whether or not it was an accurate predictor of the winter ahead - alongside that little furry critter, a common citation for winters to come is the infamous persimmon seed. This was one of the first wives tales I heard as a kid, alongside "Thunder in February, Cold Spell in April", as my grandma told me. I can't attest to the accuracy of THAT claim, but what I can do is take a look at the history of this wives tale in particular, and whether or not it's come to pass in the Valley.
THE HISTORY BEHIND THE MYTH
The folklore makes the following claims -
A fork indicates a mild winter, providing "good eats", A knife indicates a brisk, cold winter, as if you're "cutting through the cold wind", and a spoon indicates a snowy, harsh winter, with much "shoveling of snow" ahead. The stories behind this date back as far as the Civil War, during which writers for local gazettes would seek to help the troops by predicting the weather for them. One such tool they (hoped) would work was the Persimmon Seed. Now, anyone who has lived here any length of time can tell you that Tennessee Valley winters are about as confused as a fart in a fan factory, but do these seeds actually help with the predictions? Not quite...
THE TRUTH ABOUT THE SEED SHAPES
Interestingly enough, similar to the Wooly Caterpillar we discussed last night, fresh seeds from within Persimmon fruits, sadly, haven't been shown to predict anything with any sort of consistency (although, our viewers have sent us many spoon shaped seeds over the last 2-3 years, and we definitely have had our share of snow!), but they actually CAN be indicative of conditions of past seasons. When the fruit is germinating, the hard outer shell of the seed keeps the insides safe and protected until conditions become more favorable. If the conditions stay favorable for longer (for example, in a warmer season), the seeds inner, fibrous roots have more time to grow and can create certain shapes. The opposite is true, too - if there is only a short window of time for germination, the inner roots may not grow into as robust shapes as they would otherwise.
The best predictor, of course, is science. The best tool in our toolbox for now is the Climate Prediction Centers seasonal outlooks for precipitation, which combine conditions observed to years past and long range model data to create a forecast map that seeks to show what we may have to look forward to. This season, the models indicate that we are currently favoring a slightly above average chance of a wetter winter, especially as you go further north. But who knows? Do you have any spoons in your yard to back this forecast up? Send us your pictures, and less us know... in the name of science, of course!