Tag Archives: paw paws

winter update 2015

it’s something of a wonder that anyone reads this blog or that i have had new subscribers in the last 6 months as i’ve been so neglectful in posting.  i’m not promising anything like i’ll post more often, but i did tell myself i’d get one more post in this year.

if you would like to stay up to date – you might want to follow on twitter or instagram – my handle on both of those services is @dirtysabot – and i post much more frequently.

thanks to those new readers, and now on to the post.

the main reason i’ve not been posting, is that i’m busy doing the stuff i could be posting about, instead of posting about it.  also my kid is really demanding of my attention these days, and i’ve been getting some freelance work.  all this is to say that i’ve not had a lot of free time.

so a few highlights of summer/fall.

out in the garden we install nine 4×8 raised beds.   while our soil is generally good quality and the lead levels not very high, because of the kid’s elevated blood lead levels we decided to take no chances and installed the raised beds. i didn’t take any shots that give a good perspective, but this gives you a little bit of an idea.  raisedbeds

we also installed rain water totes – which gets us off the grid for outdoor water use – at some point i’ll post about the pump we are using and irrigation systems.  raintotes

successes in the garden – strawberries planted last year (that was only last year?) gave us a great harvest – i ended up with 8 gallons of berries in the freezer plus lots of fresh eating.  the kid loves strawberries – so we only have one bag left.  i’m thinking we will need to put in more beds this coming year.  maybe next year, we have a lot going on. strawberriesour peach tree – which really shouldn’t be bearing yet, gave us a nice little crop of sweet fruit. peachesi successfully grew sweet corn for the first time in years – though by the last picking the squirrels had noticed – i’m not sure i will be as lucky next year.  still it was worth the effort and i enjoyed these ears of silver queen. cornwe had a huge harvest of cantaloupe, more than i could eat – so i ended up freezing it.  makes a pretty good base for smoothies, even the stuff that is not nearly so ripe.  melonsthe fig tree survived another  record breaking winter and even provide us with a bit of tasty fruit.  figsthis years break away winner for most exciting new variety to grow in the garden – pink princess – the most amazing cherry tomato i think i have had.  pinkprincesseven alice waters said it might be better than sun gold.  speaking of – alice waters and will allen came to visit – that’s pretty cool right?  willandaliceother big new variety highlight for me was stocky red roaster pepper- a frank morton selection – anytime i see his name associated with a variety i’m willing to give it go.  these are prolific, delicious peppers that kept going well into november in the hoop house.  i’d be ok with only growing this variety.

my folks came to visit and they were kind enough to help put in this flower bed. it’s right outside my dining room window – so i can stare at the flowers while i eat breakfast.  flowerson an east coast visit i collected paw paws from the banks of the tuckahoe river – i saved seeds from the best ones – and perhaps in another 15 years i can be saving seeds from michigan maryland paw paw crosses.  pawpawfinally the project that has been taking up most of my free time this fall has been enclosing my back porch and making it into a mudroom.  this has many major advantages  – storage for coats and muddy shoes – but also added security and warmth.  it also helps keep the house cleaner – and soil from being tracked in – we are still working to get the kids lead levels lower and soil from outside is a possible source for higher levels.

before porchbeforecurrent mudroominclosedi still need to finish the siding – but that may wait until spring – inside is insulated – but still need to be drywalled, and painted – but now that it is inclosed we can work on that even on cold days.  thanks to s for looking after the kid so much so we could work on this project and to my friend j for all the help framing and installing door and windows.

what have been yr big projects of the summer/fall?

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paw paw caretakers needed!

remember the paw paw seedlings?  no?  learn more here.  they are ready to find a new home, and i’m looking for places for them to live.  but i’m not looking to sell them, i’m looking to find folks that will care for them.

the deal is – i want paw paws growing in detroit that all have access to, so i’m trying to find folks that will plant them in public spaces and agreeing to take care of them and tell me where they are so i can check on them from time to time as they grow and eventually collect more seeds from.

idea locations would be shady spots on flood plans – I’m thinking river rouge park, eliza howell park, and belle isle.  maple dominated forests all the better! a pair of trees needs to be planted at each site to insure better pollination.   you would need to keep the little guys weed free and watered for the first year, and then they should be fine on their own.  really not that much work.

if you want a couple of paw paw’s for yr yard and agree to be care taker for some wild paw paw’s i’m fine by that, i just want to make sure most of them go to places that everyone has access.  shoot me an email to work out the details dirtysabot at gmail dot com.

pawpaw seedlings finally sprout!

i wasn’t planning on writing  about paw paws again until putting together a batch of paw paw mead that i have fruit in the freezer waiting for me.  that is until i went back and checked the spot i planted some paw paw seeds a couple years ago.  ma had done some weeding in there last year and said nothing had come up and i took her word for it.  i decide to check once more this year, just to quite my hopes that they would sprout and move on to the next venture.  and i much suprised to see this sight.

over 50 of these little beauties.  planted much too close together, so i guess i’ll try to carefully transplant them next spring into another spot for them to get big enough to plant out.  my dreams of collecting paw paws in the city limits just might come true.  any recommendations of place to plant paw paws?

velodrome and paw paws

the best surefire way to get some good hits to this blog is to write about paw paws.  i’ve no idea of why, but there are always tons of searches for paw paws.  but the reason i write about them is because i love them and i’m obsessed with them, not cause i want lots of hits.

but before we get to the paw paws, the way we get to paw paw picking – a trip to the velodrome.  i remember watching as a child the olympics and folks competing in these crazy races on these steeply banked tracks and thinking that they must be nuts.  i’d pretty much forgotten about velodromes until someone mentioned that there was an old abandoned velodrome up on mound road.  this made the gears turn again, but since it was in poor shape and i had no track bike my hopes were dashed.

then someone mentioned that there was a velodrome in bloomer park about 20 miles north of detroit.  as it turns out having a velodrome that close is quite a rarity and so having the chance to ride one that is that close is pretty lucky.  with this knowledge and that on saturday mornings you can get free lessons, and equipment, i managed to convince my good friend bobby and ma into join me on a trip to the velodrome.  ma called out sick at my instance, cause her knees were bugging her and i wanted her to join me later in the weekend on a walk in the woods, but bobby and i carried on.

so on to the velodrome.  we got our bikes, got our helmets, and got our shoes.  we were explained the basics of track riding by some semi-jockish men.  the first challenge for me was just getting clipped into the pedals as i’ve never used them, and then i had to immediately deal with riding a track bike, which i’ve only ridden once or twice, and then you combine that with someone barking orders at me and you have a pretty nervous patrick.  just about the time i sort of had the pedals figured out and kind of felt comfortable on the bike, they insisted that i get up on the track.  i had few problems with the flat part at the very bottom of the track, but then after a lap or two the guy was barking at me to get up onto the 44 degree banked terrifying part of the track.   you start out in the straight away, banked only something like 14 degree, not to0 scary, but then you go right into the banked corners, which look even steeper than 44 degrees.  the instinct is to slow down and be more cautious over unknown terrain, but if you don’t go fast enough you could very well slip off and crash.  you have to go fast into the turns in order to survive.  over time it came to be slightly comfortable, but it never felt safe, and seeing as the waiver told of possibility of death and dismemberment i can only assume that it was not safe.

the velodrome

but i found myself enjoying it, finding a rhythm in the stroke, looking further ahead in the turns, not spazzing out.  but after a couple of hours of all of this i found myself physically and mentally spent.  bobby and i packed up and moved on to the next task; paw paw picking.

bobby on the velodrome

which was not planned, but since we were so close to one of my favorite paw paw picking spots and i know bobby to be a fan of fruit picking it only seemed natural that i bring him into the fold.  we found some serious beauties. including plenty that were ready to eat.

first paw paw of the season

one of the main problems with picking paw paws is that they tend to grow high up in the tree.  one of the nice things about paw paws is they tend to be pretty flexible trees.  i have no real problem bending twenty-foot tall trees down so they are low enough to pluck the fruit.  observe.

bending down and tree and picking the fruit

this is a very sizable tree, and yet it bends much more than you would imagine for a tree its size.  the other method is to shake the tree vigorously, and gather up the fruits that fall.  i use that method on trees that are too tall and to big to gather the fruits by bending.

with a pretty brief trip into the forest we came out with a backpack full of fruits which we split, this is a photo of only my half of the bounty.

paw paws

shallow grave for paw paws

this is the last paw paw posting for a while, at least till spring, though to be perfectly honest the amount of views i’ve gotten from folks searching for paw paws almost makes one tempted to keep coming up with random paw paw post to write, but i’ll not do that.

the paw paw seeds that i collected are now in a shallow grave to get the 90 days of cold treatment they need to break dormancy and sprout.  i’m not sure if I’ll dig them up in the spring, or just let them go in their shallow grave to sprout.  i’ll need to get some containers just for them, as the paw paw has a deep tap root.  all the containers i have are much too shallow.

paw paw seeds in the shallow grave

paw paw seeds in the shallow grave

paw paw consumption

pile of ripe paw paws

pile of ripe paw paws

the paw paws have been spreading their scent around the house pretty strongly for a couple of days now.  each day i would give them a little squeeze to see how ripe they were, and if they are ready.  the paw paws pretty much give 3 indicators that they are ready; they start smelling intensely strong of tropical fruit, they start to become soft, and they go from straight green to developing some brown coloring.  they are very ready now, a day after i took these pictures.

once the paw paws are ripe you have a pretty short window before they become a disgusting pile of mush, one of the main reasons that paw paws have yet to make it as a commercially viable fruit.  now that the paw paws are ripe i’m going to have to be pretty good about getting them eaten, they can be dried, and they freeze well.  i am going to freeze these pawpaw as they ripen and then make frozen paw paw custard, rumored to be among thomas jefferson’s favorite desserts.  why you would care about some old white slave owners dessert preferences is beyond me, but i’ve included this odd fact for conversation value.  i’ve thought about doing some paw paw infused mead too, but i don’t have very much mead or paw paws.

the yellow flesh of the paw paw

the yellow flesh of the paw paw

paw paw’s themselves are pretty hit or miss, unlike commercial fruits each paw paw tree is genetically different from one another – not grafted clones.  this means they have different sizes, shapes, flavors, and amounts of flesh.  the amount of flesh to seed ratio is a particularly important aspect of the paw paw, after removing the seeds of the average paw paw you can be left with less than a tablespoon of flesh – too much work for too little food.

totally full of seeds!

totally full of seeds!

paw paws have this very strange tropical flavor – a bit of mango, a bit of banana, maybe even some pineapple.  each one of them is a little different flavor.  its like nothing you would expect to come out of the forest of michigan.

after removing all the seeds, i’m soaking them in water till i can get them in the ground, hopefully only a day or two.  i’m hoping this helps them sprout a little better, as well as keeping them from drying out, which inhibits germination.  last time i saved them and made paw paw jewelry but this time i plan to plant them all so i can have a forest of paw paws across the city.  belle island seems like a ripe place for paw paw plantings.  i’ll keep you updated on the sprouting plants as well as the quality of the custard or mead whichever ends up happening.

paw paw harvest

paw paws

the paw paws are coming

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.