it was a long week last week, and ma and i decide we should go for relaxing picnic, we needed a nice location to spend some time at. it’s late summer, on the verge of fall, and so my thoughts turn to paw paws. so i recommended we hit our paw paw spot.
my first paw paw was consumed when i was still living in maryland, some folks that stopped by to see us at the farm i used to work at and brought some paw paws. i guess they were some extension folks doing research on trying to develop commercially viable paw paw cultivars that would keep and they brought us a few.
i was fascinated by this fruit, the largest fruit native to north american and with a strangely tropical flavor. when i moved to michigan where it can be found growing native, i swore i would collect it in the wild. i didn’t really have a lead on a spot to gather them – a trip to the town of Paw Paw michigan was a bust. i was traveling with my friend the grizzly man to harvest honey a few years ago and he off handedly mentioned that he had gathered paw paws as a kid at a spot we passed by.
i’ve always assumed that folks treat their paw paw spots with the same secrecy reserved for prized mushroom hunting spot. so i quickly made a mental note, and tried not to act excited. returning to this spot i found it covered in paw paw trees, but not so many paw paws themselves. paw paws don’t make that many flowers, and they are not pollinated by bees, but flies so they are not pollinated well. if you find 8 fruits on one tree you are doing pretty well, usually it’s one or 2.
after our picnic lunch of cold noodles with home made miso, and beet roots and leaves in balsamic reduction, with grapefruit juices and sparkling water to drink, we went forth paw paw picking. since paw paws grow in flood plain type areas, they also tend to be areas with major mosquito problems. we wore long sleeves despite it being 85 out, and ma even went so far as to apply some bug repellent.
i had some early luck, scoring about 7 fruits off of one tree, but it was early luck. ma had to retreat, the bugs were just too much, and i might have called her a sissy (if i didn’t want her to have good self esteem, or to get smacked) were it not for the fact that every time she got near me i seemed to start getting some serious bites. i went on, exploring and getting a few more paw paws.
in addition to not producing much fruit, paw paws also tend to set fruit so far up in the tree that you can’t pick them. the only solution i’ve come up with is to shake the tree. i tend to just shake any paw paw tree that looks big enough to produce fruit since the fruit is green and the leaves are green and it can be hard to see them. then you have to dodge any fruits that come falling out of the tree. adding to the complication is the poison ivy around the trees which makes gathering any fallen fruit difficult.
in the end we wound up with something like 2 dozen paw paws. none of them are ripe, but they should be in a few days time. at which point i have plans to freeze them and run them though the juicer and make frozen paw paw custard. yum!
in the coming weeks i’ll try to get out and grab some more paw paws, but i think i’ll save ma the blood loss and just go by myself.