Last fall, after we had purchased the Pequea Palace, a friend who is an arborist mentioned that we had paw-paw trees. I was pleased to learn that tidbit. Years ago I had heard that paw-paw tree did grow in southern Pennsylvania, and I had often imagined starting a small plot with some interesting edible plants, but I had never achieved that dream in suburbia. I also heard that one could taste pawpaw at a local festival, but I had never managed to get there. The arborist friend was not particularly impressed with the presence of the paw-paw trees. He isn’t fond of the fruit, but I tucked away the information and waited to see if I would be lucky enough to get any fruit this year.
It had been a busy summer, full of disappointments and set-backs, and by the time September rolled around, I wasn’t thinking about gathering paw-paws. There is still so much to unpack and so much to figure out, and we have just made it to the end of a season of important and celebratory, but nonetheless time consuming family obligations. Foraging isn’t high on the list at the moment. So when husband and I went for a walk yesterday, I wasn’t looking for paw-paws. We were ambling down the ridge where the sunlight reaches the sides of the trail when suddenly I got a whiff of tropical fruitiness. Clearly some squirrel was enjoying a banana smoothie. Then the brain clicked into gear and I began to search the ground. There was the source of the smell -a small green and brown speckled tuber looking thing. It had to be a paw-paw as there is no other fruit like it in this temperate zone. Looking up brought more delight! We grabbed half a dozen paw-paws from the trees and headed for home to taste our prize.
The first taste was fascinating, though not entirely surprising, since the smell emanating from a ripe paw-paw gives you a good indication of what you will taste. More surprising is the texture and that I didn’t hate it. I am not a big fan of banana. The flesh is often described as custardy and indeed, the minute the ripe paw-paw flesh is touched it melts under pressure. The seed to flesh ratio in a wild paw-paw is almost equal, so there wasn’t more than 3/4 of a cup of flesh but the taste is so strong that one paw-paw between us was enough.
Now I was hooked. I had to learn more about and find more paw-paws.