Friday, June 16, 2017

Way Down Yonder in the Pawpaw Patch

Four years ago I tasted my first (and only) common pawpaw and found it uncommonly good.  I was smitten with its custardy taste -- something silky smooth between a banana and a kiwi.

In September of 2013 we stopped at an orchard in Owen County, KY for some apples and I noticed on a blackboard at the checkout counter that they had pawpaws. We had recently planted two pawpaw trees and I was anxious to try a pawpaw fruit. The orchard owner disappeared into the back of the shed and came back and placed one brown, mushy, unappetizing fruit on the checkout table. Because I made such a big deal about purchasing pawpaws, it didn't seem right that I should reject his only fruit for sale. So Ed bought it for me. I put it in the refrigerator overnight, thinking it would surely rot on the counter. The next morning, I was ready to toss it in the compost but decided at the last minute to cut it open and taste the pulp.

I was immediately hooked on pawpaws. Without exaggeration, I can tell you it was one of the most delicious thing I had ever eaten. Over the years we have planted a dozen more small sapling pawpaws. Some in the shade, some in the sun. None ever bore fruit.

Until this year...

We had read that pawpaws require cross pollination from another unrelated pawpaw tree. Bees show no interest in pollinating the beautiful brown pawpaw flowers, but flies, on the other hand, are perfect for the task – and we were desperate for pawpaws. One source suggested placing roadkill under the trees to lure some flies to our pawpaw trees. Because we didn't have any roadkill handy, we hung rotting pork chop bones in the branches of each tree that had flowered. Sure enough, it worked!

On our rounds the other day, Ed spotted not one, but three, small pawpaw fruits on one of our trees. We celebrated our good fortune, but immediately began to worry that our raccoon population might beat us to the ripening fruit. Our plan is to put a net around the one tree with fruit and hope that the fruits hang on until September when they will be ripe enough to fall from the tree and harvest, or, as the song says, to "pick up pawpaws and put 'em in our pocket, way down yonder on the paw-paw patch."

Then we plan to have a pawpaw party!

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