A peek in­side the paw­paw

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - LIVING - Pam Bax­ter From the Ground Up

When I wrote last month about adopt­ing a paw­paw tree from a friend of mine, I had no idea that the sub­ject would inspire such a large and en­thu­si­as­tic re­sponse. It turns out that many of you not only know but also grow this lit­tle-heard-of fruit tree. It was won­der­ful to get ad­vice on how to grow and how to eat this North Amer­i­can trop­i­cal odd­ity.

Shelley Johnson McMackin, from Phoenixville, wrote, “We lived in Alexandria, Vir­ginia for 12 years (although I grew up in Ch­ester County), and found a patch of paw paw that we would visit in the fall to try to nab some fruit be­fore the an­i­mals did. It grew be­side the Po­tomac in not par­tic­u­larly dry soil, in the lower canopy of some first growth tulip poplars and oaks. So I think your yard spot is prob­a­bly per­fect from our ex­pe­ri­ence. (I will add that the deer loved it, so a heads-up.”

McMackin added, “I too was taught the song — none of my Vir­ginia friends had heard of it, so to­tally mocked on that, lol.”

Pat Anderson wrote, “Thought you might like to know there is a Paw Paw Mu­seum in Port De­posit, Md. The mu­seum has a paw paw tree in their front yard. There are also stands along both sides of the Susque­hanna River. It re­ally is in­ter­est­ing to see and most peo­ple have never heard of the paw paws. My daugh­ter lives in the area and likens the fruit to crème brûlée — maybe! I haven’t tasted one for years.”

The con­ver­sa­tion moved from fond mem­o­ries to the present, with an email from Ted Wee­den. He wrote, “A friend showed me your Re­porter news­pa­per ar­ti­cle,” Wee­den wrote. “I be­long to BYFG (Back­yard Fruit Grow­ers) out of Lan­caster area, but I hap­pen to live in Har­leysville. I am prob­a­bly the lead­ing ex­pert on paw­paws in this state. I did rep­re­sent [Penn­syl­va­nia] at the 4th In­ter­na­tional Paw­paw Con­fer­ence held at Ken­tucky State Univer­sity on Septem­ber 1st – 3rd.

“I am grow­ing more than 65 full size paw­paw trees in my yard. I have most of the best-

known cul­ti­vars and many new ones that are su­pe­rior then most. I do have about 90 one- and two-yearold hy­brid paw­paw trees for sale. My freezer is full of paw­paw fruit, so I eat paw­paws all year long.”

What about the elu­sive, al­most mys­ti­cal ref­er­ences to the min­gled fla­vors of ba­nana, mango, and pineap­ple? I didn’t have time to run up to Har­leysville, so I was de­lighted to get an in­vi­ta­tion from Karen Reynolds to come pick a few paw­paws from her two large trees in West Ch­ester Bor­ough.

Said Reynolds, “Your ar­ti­cle was very timely! I’ve been pick­ing paw paws off the lawn all week­end and ex­per­i­ment­ing with recipes. I planted the trees from seedlings that I got from a cat­a­log mostly on a whim and be­cause my mom and my grand­fa­ther oc­ca­sion­ally sang the song.”

The day I vis­ited, Reynolds cut open a fresh, raw paw­paw for me so that I could ex­pe­ri­ence the tex­ture and fla­vor of the fruit. I can’t say that I was su­per im­pressed by ei­ther, and the fruits are full of large seeds. But Reynolds cut me a slice of a freshly-baked paw­paw cream pie; it was sur­pris­ingly de­li­cious. So was the ex­otic aroma of the her whole back yard.

The fun­ni­est and at the same time the most poignant re­sponse was the one from Sharon Richard­son, in Ch­ester Springs. She wrote, “I laughed out loud when I read last week’s ar­ti­cle about paw paw trees — I’m on my sec­ond or third try with them. I am very hope­ful that my grand­son (18 months) will have an op­por­tu­nity to eat paw paws, but I’ve tried two be­fore and they each died.”

Pam Bax­ter is an avid or­ganic veg­etable gar­dener who lives in Kim­ber­ton. Di­rect e-mail to pcbax­ter@ver­i­zon.net, or send mail to P.O. Box 80, Kim­ber­ton, PA 19442. Join the con­ver­sa­tion at “Ch­ester County Roots,” a Face­book page for gar­den­ers in the Del­a­ware Val­ley. Go to Face­book, search for Ch­ester County Roots, and “like” the page. To re­ceive no­tice of up­dates, click or hover on “Liked” to set your pref­er­ences.

PHOTO BY PAMELA BAX­TER

The in­side of a paw­paw.

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