Tuesday, October 4, 2011
This secret pawpaw patch is an exceptionally nice one to hunt--level ground, open understory, very little poison ivy and comparatively few nettles. Sometimes pawpaws grow in such thick undergrowth that you can't find the fruit after you shake it down.
No such problem here. Although good technique involves locating the fruit overhead, marking its position in the tree, then shaking it vigorously while watching closely for the fruit to fall. It's really nice to have a couple of helpers along who can stand aside and watch for falling fruit while the shaker winces and ducks (we each took a pawpaw to the head in this hunt).
We had to work on that with Liam, who is given to wildly shaking trees without waiting for backup.
It helps to have a tall drink of water for a daughter when picking pawpaws.
It helps to have help carrying your haul. I strongly recommend a sturdy backpack for mulepacking them out. I take this little JanetBasket everywhere I go. It's held everything from pawpaws to squash and strawberries to cameras and laptops.
The kids are hoisting 23 pounds of pawpaws in this photo. We had to take shifts carrying them out of the woods.
You'd think I'd be satisfied. But no. The very next morning I had to take Phoebe back to school for a track meet, so I ventured into the pawpaw patch again. We'd gotten 23 pounds the evening before--could I squeeze more out of it?
I took my best pawpaw doggeh with me this time.
He is admittedly more interested in chiptymunks and squirtles than pawpaws.
It was only 58 degrees, drippy and cold in the woods, but that was perfect, for pawpaw hunting can be sweaty work.
Tromping around, looking up, shaking, ducking, bending, collecting, and hauling the booty.
Within two hours I had 16 more pounds of pawpaws. I'd brought my trusty Osprey backpack this time, so toting them wasn't so onerous. I'd also thought to include some plastic bags. The riper pawpaws can split upon hitting the ground, and the custardy pulp gets all over everything.
More than that, their sheer weight in the pack crushes the ripe ones.
So here's a tip for the pawpaw hunter. Take the softest, ripest ones and bag them before putting them in your pack. And try to keep them on top!
One finds the most beautiful and mysterious things while hunting pawpaws.
There are many puffballs out this fall, but this one was different. About the size of a cantaloupe, it had a nettle leaf imprinted on its humid skin.
There was nothing left of the leaf but its color, a membranous shadow, a memory of the leaf that had somehow dissolved into the mushroom. So beautiful, a natural decoupage.
I carried the memory of my babies picking the night before in the silent, dripping woods
and was completely happy.