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Pawpaw Frenzy

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.


Good job, and that mushroom with leaf decoupage was super cool. Thanks for sharing that.

You have me so interested in these Pawpaws I would love to try some. Do you know if I would be able to locate any in my region of Erie, PA? Thanks Julie.

Now that's a happy paw paw-picker!

You are very industrious. I love these stories about gathering paw paws with your family or with your doggeh. I've never had or seen one, I think I'm missing out. I'm glad you've found a good patch of them. Enjoy! karol

Posted by Anonymous October 4, 2011 at 5:57 AM

Insect nets on long aluminum poles - just sayin'

Great having all your helpers/pickers!! So is it called a pawpaw orchird or grove?
With so many - are you going to make jam? I've never seen it sold!! Now --- for the rest of the story. . . . . . please!!
BTW- NEAT mushroom!

Now, this explains something I witnessed down at the Enchanted Forest last January.

There was a feral orange tree growing just off the trail and Liam was shaking that thing like a wild man as he attempted to shake loose an orange.

I see he had prior training.

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Posted by Rick from Licking County October 4, 2011 at 12:48 PM

Mm-mm , yum...the potential. Did you find any fresh white puffballs not decoupaged? They are delicious. With the size that are growing there , it looks as if one would be enough for a meal.

Of course we got permission to harvest on private property would have been the response if we had gotten permission.

What do you do with all those fruit?

Laurap, stay tuned! Answer coming next installment!

Right you are, r, and I deleted your first two pointed comments criticizing me for not getting permission to forage on public (not, as you incorrectly assume, private) land because I'm dishing the good natural history stuff up for free here, have been for almost six years, and I don't happen to appreciate being publicly criticized by someone who likes to shoot from the sidelines without knowing the whole story. Try stepping back from your narrow viewpoint. Look at what I'm doing here--turning thousands of people on to a natural resource many may not have even known existed. Do you provide a free informational service to the public three times a week? If so, please provide a link.

There ain't a pawpaw to be had in South Dakota, I am anxious to see what one does with a bumper crop.

That's the first decoupaged puffball I've ever seen!

Well, I've always wanted to know what a pawpaw was. Thanks for the pics. What's the flavor? How thick is the skin? (Will you have to peel each or will the skin slip like a peach or tomato?) And what does one do with such poundage?
It reminds me of the wild persimmons we'd seek in Oklahoma. Small, but packed with so much taste. Or maybe it was the worms that added the flavor. Thanks for the info

Posted by Anonymous October 5, 2011 at 11:26 PM

Love the photos; especially the decoupaged mushroom! Wow, what a find. Only in Mother Nature. Yep, only in Mother Nature. Thanks for all your posts and info! And of course, keeping us up to date on what Chet Baker is doing! I saw the photo of him sitting in Ruthie's lap at the birding symposium--I was so jealous of her. :-)

A ranger at Lake White State Park near Waverly told us we were not allowed to harvest morels or ginseng in the park,is that correct?

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