Paw-paw patch

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.


How to explain?  Why would a middle-aged couple who never lived in the country consider buying a 25 acre wooded property in the southern end of a county where the roads are winding and hilly, the only public utility is the electrical service and the house is small and dumpy.  Why leave the comfort of the suburbs where the road is paved, the mail and newspaper are delivered at the end of the driveway, and the grocery store is 8 minutes away?

The old house is sturdy, decently appointed, has a delightful backyard and holds many good memories.  The old county is home, where I grew up and my kids did too.  I know the businesses, and the backroads, and where to pick strawberries.  I have relationships – family, friends, doctors, dentists, and vendors at market here, at the old home.  There’s church, there’s my homeschool community where I am welcome even though I am retired.  There’s my neighbor whom I will miss being able to text and ask if she can come chat over the fence.

The path not taken kept beckoning.  Can we do it?  Can we push ourselves just a bit, or are we already so past our prime that even this small bit of nature will overwhelm us?  In search of what we do not know about ourselves and each other; in search of more than we know. Pequea Pilgrims.

They say a bad day here …

is a good day anywhere else.  I don’t who said that, but I would imagine it’s been said quite often about many places.  And it’s not hard to feel that way about Pequea when you are sitting in the sunroom gazing at the river through the trees.

Might be a little harder to say when you’ve fallen in a foot of water, decomposing leaves and tadpoles at the bottom of a pool that’s not submitting to our attempts to empty it.  Might be, but really wasn’t so hard to say.  I hopped in there because I was so gung-ho about moving along the project, and I wanted to be in on the action.  Well, fat, middle-aged women should probably be more careful about what kind of action they seek, but given that I’m not so careful, there I was, wet, slimy, and part of the action.

At the end of the day, the pool still remained unempty.  I, however, had the joy of doing something rash, and interesting, and feel blessed to not pay a higher price than a little extra laundry for the joy of an interesting day in Pequea.