All fruits and vegetables evolve during their growing season, from planting seeds to harvest. The growing period overlaps with near perfect coincidence. That translates to feast of famine. Plants may produce multiple fruits for a period of time, but trees produce their fruit and nuts all at once. If you rely upon them for food, you must acquire the knowledge and skill to pack them away.
I read a story from NPR about “foraging for fruit.” It is about one of my favorite trees and fruit that is indigenous to North America, the paw-paw. I have written before about my father introducing me to the paw-paws while we were hunting for squirrels in the woods in north central Ohio.
The fruit was lying on the ground while some were still hanging on the tree. The ones on the ground were golden in color. He picked up a fruit and handed it to me.
“Try this; it tastes exactly like a banana,” he offered.
I removed the skin that is like an avocado. Inside was a banana-like white fruit surrounded by lots of large seeds. I tasted the white fruit and it had the texture of a ripe banana as well as the taste. Eating a paw-paw would take some skill to navigate and spit the seeds, like eating grapes.
In the NPR story, individuals knock a green paw-paw from the tree and proceed to try it. That is a concocted story as their reaction must be contrived because paw-paws only taste good when they are ripe, which means golden to blackened skin. Green paw-paws taste bad as I have tried them.
Naturalists tell me that deer don’t eat paw-paws, but many animals do.
I suspect that you can’t do much with paw-paws except eat them in season.
"Lewis and Clark wrote in their journals that they were quite fond of the pawpaw. At one point during their expedition in 1806, they relied on pawpaws when other provisions ran low."
Lewis and Clark and their company must have been most desperate.
“What’s a Pawpaw Taste Like? And Where Can You Find One?
Posted on Thursday, August 11, 2011 by eNature
So just what is a pawpaw, other than something many of us sang about as children?
And what the heck does one taste like?
It’s actually an interesting story…
The Common Pawpaw is the northernmost New World representative of a chiefly tropical family, which includes the popular tropical fruits Annona, Custard-apple, Sugar-apple, and Soursop. It produces the largest edible fruit indigenous to North America.
The plant has large oblong leaves and many observers think it looks like a tropical plant, although it is native to over 25 states in the eastern U.S. It’s generally found in patches in well-drained, deep, fertile bottom-land and hilly upland habitat.
The wild fruit was once harvested, but the supply has now decreased greatly due to the clearing of forests. The small crop is generally consumed only by wildlife, such as opossums, squirrels, raccoons, and birds. Attempts have been made to cultivate Common Pawpaw as a fruit tree but it’s not commonly found under cultivation.
“The Pawpaw: Foraging For America's Forgotten Fruit
by ALLISON AUBREY
September 29, 2011 1:25 AM
Tiny Desk Kitchen: Ever Had A Pawpaw?
Credit: Allison Aubrey, Claire O'Neill, Maggie Starbard
So what the heck is a pawpaw?
Recently, I heard about a secret snack. Kayakers who paddle the waters near Washington, D.C., told me about a mango-like fruit that grows along the banks of the Potomac — a speckled and homely skin that hides a tasty treat.
A tropical-like fruit here, really? Yep. It's the only temperate member of a tropical family of trees. You can't buy the pawpaw in stores, so for years, the only way to eat them was straight from the tree.
I was intrigued. So I decided to hunt for a pawpaw myself.
D.C. nature guide Matt Cohen showed me how to find them.
We took the Billy Goat Trail on the Maryland side of the Potomac River. "Wow," was the first word out of my mouth when I tasted one we found on our hike. It's sort of mango-meets-the-banana ... with a little hint of melon.
Although you may not have heard of it, the pawpaw has quite a history. Thomas Jefferson had pawpaws at Monticello. And when he was minister to France in 1786, he had pawpaw seeds shipped over to friends there. He probably wanted to impress his friends with something exotic from America.
Lewis and Clark wrote in their journals that they were quite fond of the pawpaw. At one point during their expedition in 1806, they relied on pawpaws when other provisions ran low. And from Michigan to West Virginia, people have even named towns and lakes after the pawpaw.
But the pawpaw has only recently been commercialized. That's one reason you don't see it in the grocery store. So far, there are just a few orchards selling to farmers markets. This progress is largely thanks to the work of plant scientist Neal Peterson.
He has spent the past 35 years breeding the pawpaw to make it look and taste more like a fruit we'd buy. He has selected and grown varieties that are bigger, with more flesh.
After tasting his first wild pawpaw 35 years ago, he had a eureka moment.
"It was just a revelation," he says. Peterson thought that the pawpaw was every bit the rival of a perfect peach or apple — fruits that have had thousands of years of breeding.
Why hadn't someone done this with the pawpaw? "I could just instantly make that leap of imagination," he says.”"