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Pickin' Up Paw Paws

Sunday, October 2, 2011

But most assuredly NOT putting them in my pocket.  This is the photographic journey of a woman (temporarily) possessed by pawpaws.

 Thirty-nine pounds of pawpaws. I am not making this up.

Phoebe, she of the flame-red hair, spied a large grove of pawpaws while training for cross-country near Beverly, Ohio. She stopped and picked one and shared it with her teammates. This thrilled me on a number of levels. First, my girl recognizes the trees when she sees them. Second, Phoebe doesn't like the taste of pawpaws, but she still wanted to share them. She's showing strong Science Chimp tendencies.

 She came home and told me of her find, and that Friday when I had to drive over to the same area and pick her up from training she and Liam and I went to investigate.

It was rich bottomland woods along a creek, low and mucky and just what pawpaws love. It was full of the trees, mostly quite young and slender. But pawpaws can be deceiving--they can bear fruit when they look barely old enough to think about sex.

Here's the take from a tree about 1.5" dbh--just a sapling, really, but loaded with eight nice fruit. Average take from a young pawpaw like this is about four fruits. Pretty amazing for a tree that small (that's its trunk in the picture).

They were slender and pliant enough to allow us to bend them so we could reach the fruit. 

A little albino spider monkey, foraging for his lunch.

Sometimes monkeys work in tandem. One bends the pawpaw tree while the other gathers the fruit.

The most commonly used and exciting technique, though, is to shake the tree and wait, head down and wincing, for the heavy plop plop plopadop! of fruit all around you. 

Only rarely are they good enough to land at your feet. Usually they land and roll and hide under nettle leaves.

Nettles are the constant companion and plague of the Ohio pawpaw hunter. 

Wickedly armed with urticating spines, stinging nettles go right through Columbia's "Titanium" fabric, so forget wearing the nice light zip-off birding trou while hunting pawpaws. Just sayin'. Wear long pants and long sleeves, and make them thick. And prepare to be sent after the fruit in the thickest nettle patches, or hear the moans and yelps of your shorts-wearing progeny.

Next post: You'd think 23 pounds would be enough...


I love the bathroom scales in the back of the top picture. It says "Yeah - I have so many of these bad boys kitchen scales no longer meet my pawpaw weighing requirements."

well I certainly hope you of all people(!) heard the wonderful(7 min.) story NPR did the other day on the joy and history of paw paws.
If anyone missed it it's available here:

PS I guess the bearing fruit whilst young thing may make evolutionary sense given the potential damage the megafauna which originally ate these plants might do to a tree.

PPS those yellow fly agarics in the last post were super cool.

There's something about watching a bunch of primates gathering fruits that makes me all warm and fuzzy.
Wait ... I'm a mammal, so the warm and fuzzy part is kind of redundant.
Still, it does make me smile.

I trade you a big jar of our homemade Datil Pepper relish for some pawpaw seeds. They are native here, but hard to find.
Just email me if you are interested.

You have taught me soooo much. Thank you again.

Processing pawpaws from beginning to end is certainly an act of love (and obsession)!

I hope that your next post will have you cutting a pawpaw open to show what this fruit looks like on the inside. Also try to explain what it tastes like or at least compare it to whatever, and how it is fixed! I was surprised to read that they are native to Fla. until I read the comment by Floridacracker and he knows ALL!

I have never heard of the Paw Paw. I am like treehugger, I wold like to see a dissection of sorts. Is it hard to peel? Do you even peel it!

I have heard of them..but haven't a clue what they taste like or even if they are found here in the southeast.
Looks like a fun way to spend the afternoon sans nettles!

Wow! Never heard of them.

My mama use to sing a song to me about picking up paw paws. It never occured to me to ask what is a paw paw. Now I know fifty years later.

What do you do with Pawpaws?? Freeze, can, preserves, pies???

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