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Saturday, September 26, 2020

On the Hunt for the Elusive Paw Paw



This year, our Paw Paw haul was considerably smaller than that of the last.  Normally, there are several of us that partake in the 'hunt', at least two people, to watch each other's back, especially along the highway.  There are some super secret locations from which we harvest these fragrant and most delightful gems.  The Paw Paw is known by many names, but its scientific name is Asimina Triloba and its been around for quite some time. The Paw Paw, also known by many other monikers like Poor Man's Banana, Kentucky Banana and more recently, Hipster Banana to name a few.  I highlight many more of its most amazing benefits in a previous article I posted, Paw Paw Poundcake.  This is the only tropical like fruit that grows indigenous in the Americas, most along the Eastern Side of the United and Southern States.  The Paw Paw has a very volatile shelf life, so it is not available in the Mass Market.  The Farmer's Market is the best place to find them potentially during late August to early October, but for my area of Central Virginia, its definitively late August thru the first couple weeks of September.  
I was so excited to finally find a few this season, I ate one in the car, on the short drive home. I wiped it with my shirt and peeled it with my teeth.  I asked the Paw Paw where its buddies were, of course it did not answer.  I knew there were more to be located, because the intoxicating, majestic and sweet aroma fills the air, you can literally follow your nose.  They flourish in partially shaded and well drained, but moist soil.
Most of the fruits pictured below were a tad too hard yet, the less appealing the skin gets, the better it becomes. The tropical and fragrant notes are more pronounced and the taste is exotic and familiar at the same time.  It possesses the mouthfeel almost like that of an avocado and it has good fats too!! 
 It is important to take advantage as soon as the Paw Paw start to ripen, the animals love them as much as we do and when they are ready, they will fall right from the tree, under its own weight.  They can literally litter the forest floor.  That is in part why they grow in natural groves, but it takes several years for a tree to produce fruit.  I finally have some of the seeds that I've thrown in my compost bed, start to grow on the back side and I can see many tiny trees, on their way to greatness.  I've also thrown them around the perimeter of our property over the years, to hopefully gain a few more followers, wish them luck!  
Paw Paw fruit, tropical and American at the same time.


The fruit of the Paw Paw are protected and almost hidden by its broad leaves.  They are much like the Morel in the spring, in that they are hard to spot, until you get accustomed to seeing them, then the magic happens.  Did I tell you that they smell Ahmazing!  I collected the Paw Paws pictured above from the roadside.  I didn't have the luxury at that moment, to go down the embankment, deeper into the woods, at the time or by myself.  I didn't get to go back, forfeiting my total haul for recipe development.  I am quite salty about that. The day was rainy and  I was in between rain showers when I made it to the area and with prior engagements looming, I could not steal any more moments, but I was glad that I at least harvested the few I did.  In the voice of Dr Claw, "Next time, Gadget!"  Now, I have to again wait until late August of next year.  Never miss a moment to tell a Paw Paw you care, they are gone in a flash!
Paw Paws trees have broad, flat leaves.

The fruits grow on the underside of the leaves, almost hidden.


 
 

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