Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Oh Where, Oh Where is the Pawpaw Patch???

One of the many treasures that can be found along the Ohio is the once-prevalent "pawpaw" fruit. Many of us remember the old kids rhyme about the pawpaw: "where, oh where is  pretty little Susie, Way down yonder at the pawpaw patch...." But what many folks don't know is that the pawpaw is an excellent edible fruit that is currently in season. These delicious mango-like edibles ripen in August and September each year.

The problem, from a commercial perspective, with the pawpaw is that the season is short, the fruit is fragile and thus difficult to transport. Despite such issues, efforts have been ongoing to create a more durable fruit that can be shared with more people. The fruit itself is rich in nutrients and has a tropical flavor. They can be found in several locations along the Ohio River and throughout the midwest/southeast regions. The fruit is green  and, as it ripens, the skin turns more yellow/brown and picks up black splotches (that don't seem to in anyway affect the taste). The fruit is rich in vitamins A and C.

The following is a link to a great article on the long and rich history of pawpaws in the US:

The article is written by Ronald Powell PhD and provides a historical perspective on the importance of the pawpaw to Native Americans, as well as the great explorers of the United States.

I would love to have a few of these trees in my yard. However, these deciduous trees are very difficult to transplant and best, so I am told, to start from seed. The first two or so years the tree requires indirect light for best growth. From a soil perspective, the tree grows best in fertile, loamy soil that is well drained. An added benefit of this tree in a landscape is that deer supposedly will not eat the twigs and leaves, although racoons, fox and other animals will eat the fruit.

Last week our friend Kayak Steve met us at the Green Kayak Market with a bag full of pawpaws. He found a small grove of trees in a small tributary off the Ohio River while kayaking.  We will definitely paddle back to get more of this wonderful, forgotten fruit. Oh what life on the river brings...

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