The Pawpaw Report – August 26, 2016

 

Pawpaws in the deepest South are all but finished.

Pawpaws in the Atlanta area are ripe now. [Chattahoochee pawpaws. Chattahoochee Custard Apples?]

In South Carolina, reporter Thelisha Casey enjoyed a ripe pawpaw in the Congaree National Park. #nps100

Pawpaws in Winston-Salem are peaking, if not waning. If you read this today or tomorrow, drive swiftly but safely to Winston-Salem–Saturday is the North Carolina Pawpaw Festival!

A pawpaw cultivar feast was had in Asheville, North Carolina.

Casey Trees, in Washington D.C., has at least one ripe pawpaw.

A Virginian told me they got their first pawpaw this week.

Pawpaws in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, are not yet ripe.

In Pittsburgh, we’re still maybe a week away. Most of the pawpaws are solid as rock.

If you’re north of Pittsburgh, your pawpaws shouldn’t be ripe. If you they are, that’s special, so give me a call.

 

 

Pawpaws in Bosnia and Croatia

In June, I took an incredible opportunity to travel to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia. I have much to say about that experience. But this blog post will be in brief and about pawpaws.

Pawpaws are currently available at at least one Croatian nursery, Exotic King. (A current article about the nursery and co-owners Ivan Šulog and Martina Perešin Šulog: here).

One of the many great people we met in Sarajevo was Fedja Krivosič. Fedja recently planted a pawpaw tree on his family’s land, a beautiful property that also hosts community farming and agricultural research projects. Depending on this pawpaw’s success, and the success of a few soon-to-be-planted trees, Fedja has plans for an exciting new pawpaw-related project involving a local school.

 

The young tree appears to be grafted, and I assume the variety is called “Gent bloom 2” or “mud’oul trojlaločný”.

We toured Fedja’s property, and talked pawpaws for a while. Towards the end of the evening Fedja invited us to pick cherries from one of his large and loaded trees. So Boris and Cornelius climbed on the roof with a fruit picker and set to work gathering cherries until the sun set.

 

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My friends told me that in Bosnia, much fruit is grown for alcohol production. Rakia, the umbrella term for fruit brandies, are quite popular (and delicious!). I’m hoping Fedja and his colleagues do find success with the pawpaw, and that I might someday return and sample a homemade pawpaw rakia.

Pawpaw Road Trippin’, Part 2: North Carolina Pawpaw Festival 2015 & West Virginia rambling

Pawpaw: In Search of America’s Forgotten Fruit is available from Chelsea Green Publishing

 

The North Carolina Pawpaw Festival has become a gathering of the region’s most dedicated, knowledgeable, and passionate pawpaw enthusiasts. I was honored to be among them a few weeks ago for the 8th annual event.

  • Ron and Terry Powell, of the North American Pawpaw Growers Association, disseminated information on growing, processing, and marketing pawpaws (and sold copies of their organization’s pawpaw cookbook!)
  • Though it was unripe, Woody Walker (who, several years ago, discovered and promoted the Kentucky Champion pawpaw tree) brought one of his “free stone” pawpaws for show, and offered dozens of seedlings for sale

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Walker holds his “free stone” pawpaw

  • Full of Life Farms’ Wynn Dinsen–whose pawpaws supply Fullsteam Brewery for its various pawpaw beers–sold fresh fruit and treesDSC_0119

A ripe, yellowing pawpaw from Dinsen’s orchard

  • Milton Parker sold seedling pawpaws and potted figs
  • Neal Peterson shared tips on growing pawpaws in commercial settings (and his vast knowledge of all things pawpaw), and information on his own Peterson Pawpaws
  • And among several other vendors was Afton, Virginia’s, Edible Landscaping, a longtime champion of, yep, edible landscaping, and one of the premier vendors of grafted pawpaws. Nursery owner Michael McConkey was in attendance throughout the festival.

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McConkey in the pawpaw patch

The festival is a production of the Forsyth County Cooperative Extension Service.

Fullsteam Brewery had originally planned to attend the festival and, I’m assuming, offer samples of its pawpaw beer(s). Unfortunately this was not able to occur. I’d interacted with Fullsteam on Twitter, inquiring whether their pawpaw Tripel would be available elsewhere in Winston-Salem, but no, unfortunately the nearest option would be Charlotte.

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Meanwhile, attempting to make good on a promise to a friend in Pittsburgh to bring back a regional beer, I asked a festival-goer about finding local brews. With her tip to check out Stella Brew, a craft beer bottle shop, I was delighted to find their Fullsteam collection. I mentioned to the shopkeeper my reason from visiting Winston-Salem and she said, “We’ve got Fullsteam’s pawpaw beer on tap!”

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I bought a growler of the Pawpaw Tripel and shared it with a room of pawpaw obsessives and it was pure joy.

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Check out Fullsteam’s Forager series by clicking here.

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I gathered with a few friends that evening to sample nearly a dozen pawpaws, to compare cultivars and record our impressions of each. I wrote extensive notes on each pawpaw in my pocket-sized notebook and then proceeded to lose that notebook in the North Hills of Pittsburgh a few days later. (If anyone finds a notebook with unusual flavor notes, that’s it, let me know).

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On my way home, the next day, I took several detours in West Virginia, and found pawpaws everywhere. Below are pictures taken in and around the historic Thurmond, West Virginia. Pawpaws eveywhere.DSC_0211 DSC_0217 DSC_0218 DSC_0233

Pawpaw Road Trippin’, Part 1: Pittsburgh to Jacksonville, Atlanta, and points in between

I’ve just come home from a week on the road talking pawpaws and promoting my new book Pawpaw: In Search of America’s Forgotten Fruit. The trip took me to Bland, Virginia; Jacksonville, Florida; Atlanta, Georgia; Knoxville, Tennessee; and Beckley, West Virginia.  

In Jacksonville, Florida, I was hosted by my friends at Urban Folk Farm, and welcomed by members of Permaculture Jacksonville. I met wonderful people doing interesting things related to organic and sustainable agriculture, food access, food education, and modern homesteading. It was a privilege to speak about pawpaws, which, in this corner of Northeast Florida, are quite rare.

One of the attendees shared a story about a man harvesting several pounds of pawpaws from a wild patch growing along a river near Gainesville, Florida. Now, according to the USDA–and according to my research and own experiences–Asimina triloba is unlikely to be found this far south. But maybe the USDA missed this patch. Unfortunately, the story ends here. So if any of you readers has information on the mysterious Gainesville/Alachua County patch, do get in touch!

The next morning I took a hike around the perimeter of Urban Folk Farm (which borders a conservation easement), hopeful that I might find one of the endemic Asimina species growing in the woods. And my naive optimism was rewarded! Just beyond the barbed wire was a pair of Asimina shrubs, pictured below.
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An endemic Asimina species in NE Florida (or is it a False Pawpaw? If any readers can identify this species, let me know).

After Jacksonville, I continued south to my hometown, Lake Wales, Florida, to visit with my family. My mom has also caught the pawpaw bug, and is experimenting with growing Asimina triloba well south of its native range. So far, they appear to be thriving. Central Florida has had heavy rains this summer, and one of the pawpaws is showing incredible growth, pictured below (pardon the poor quality–I took this picture on a steamy morning and my lens fogged up… I couldn’t wait for a better shot, had to make good time to Atlanta!)

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Asimina triloba with vigorous growth far south of its native range.

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Asimina triloba in Polk County, Florida.

Let’s call Polk County the Asimina, or even Annonaceae, crossroads. Pictured below is a seedling cherimoya, a native to tropical South America, growing in a container. This will either need to be carted into the green house, or covered with cloth, during one of the county’s rarer frosty evenings.

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In Atlanta, I was welcomed by not only the friendly folks of Trees Atlanta, but also my first ripe pawpaw of the season. For those of you acquainted with pawpaws, you know this aroma. And for those of you who are on the far end of the obsession spectrum, you know this was an exciting moment.

The talk in Atlanta was actually a panel discussion, hosted by Robby Astrove, a fruit tree-naturalist-forager-education specialist-multi-talented all-around good guy (www.fruitforwardorchards.com). Also on the panel was NAFEX member Robert Hamilton, known in Atlanta as “the fruit man” due to his extensive knowledge of unusual fruit trees–both horticulturally and culinarily; and Cindy Mayer, a coordinator for the Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary Certification program at The Atlanta Audubon Society. The pawpaw, not only of value to us humans, is food for several mammals, and is the only larval host of the zebra swallowtail butterfly. It was an honor to be included in this dynamic, engaging panel.

After the discussion, we pawpaw people gathered in the parking lot to split the single ripe pawpaw about a half dozen ways. It was savored, and delicious.

In Knoxville, Tennessee, I visited a good friend, hiked around one of the city’s historic neighborhoods, and visited the recently relocated Three Rivers Market, Knoxville’s community food co-op. Perhaps pawpaws will soon be on the shelves here. After all, it was here in Knoxville, at the annual Biscuit Festival, that a pawpaw pecan biscuit, with a whiskey sorghum caramel topping, was a runner-up for the people’s choice award. Downtown, I spoke with a bookseller who remembered eating pawpaws on his grandfather’s East Tennessee farm. Such anecdotes are a reminder that this neglected fruit has a rich history–and a living story–all over this country.

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Click here to purchase Pawpaw: In Search of America’s Forgotten Fruit.

Advance praise for Pawpaw…

Advance praise for Pawpaw:

This book is a love song, singing the praises of a unique, delicious, and once-abundant fruit that has been sadly neglected. Andrew Moore takes us on a very personal journey investigating how and why North America’s largest indigenous fruit largely disappeared, and documenting efforts to revive it. Pawpaw is a pleasure to read, and if you do you’ll probably find yourself searching for and loving these delectable fruits.

Sandor Ellix Katz, author of The Art of Fermentation 

“With Pawpaw, Andrew Moore walks firmly in the steps of the great literary journalists John McPhee and Mark Kurlansky. Stories deftly told, research deeply done, this book is an engaging ride through the haunts of a fruit many Easterners quietly—secretly, even—gorge themselves on each autumn. A ripe pawpaw is as illicit as Persephone’s pomegranate, and Moore captures that passion well.”

Hank Shaw, 2013 James Beard Award winner, Best Food Blog, and author of Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast and Duck Duck Goose: Recipes and Techniques for Cooking Ducks and Geese

“Here is proof that culinary odysseys don’t always need to involve globetrotting or the pursuit of rare, exotic foodstuffs. But, then again, in his pursuit of the lowly American pawpaw, Andrew Moore reminds us that America was once considered an exotic destiny on its own, and has always had more than its fair share of culinary rarities.”—Damon Lee Fowler, author of Essentials of Southern Cooking and Beans, Greens, & Sweet Georgia Peaches

“Tropical growers have many shade crops to choose from, like cacao and coffee. Here in eastern North America we have our own luscious fruit for shady places―the pawpaw. Andrew Moore’s Pawpaw tells the story of this fruit and the people working to bring it to our gardens, markets, and restaurants. It’s the story of an eastern native fruit on its way to domestication, finally earning the place in our hearts and our cuisine that it deserves.”—Eric Toensmeier, author of Paradise Lot and Perennial Vegetables

“Andrew Moore has done an amazing job demystifying one of America’s most misunderstood and neglected fruits. Pawpaw deftly navigates between his own personal journey and the facts and history of the fruit, leaving readers―including chefs interested in heritage and tradition―with a true sense of how important it is to embrace this indigenous treasure.”—Travis Milton, chef and co-owner of Shovel and Pick, Richmond, Virginia

“This book took me on an enchanting and engaging ride through the history, folklore, and science of a neglected but magical food plant. Andrew Moore shows us, in delightful prose and a wealth of fascinating stories, the role that the under-appreciated pawpaw has played in North American culture. I was constantly surprised to learn of the quiet influence the pawpaw has had on the people and environment around it, and like the author, am hopeful that it can find its rightful place among the better-known fruits that we all love.”—Toby Hemenway, author of Gaia’s Garden and The Permaculture City

“Like a gumshoe detective, Andrew Moore tracks down a mystery at once horticultural and culinary: Why is the pawpaw, America’s largest indigenous fruit, so little known? The answer, like the fruit’s beguiling taste, proves multi-layered and slippery, and after reading Moore’s engaging account, I’m ready to light out for pawpaw country myself in search of this homegrown original.”—Langdon Cook, author of The Mushroom Hunters: On the Trail of an Underground America

“America, get ready for pawpaw mania! Andrew Moore’s book tells the definitive story of the wild fruit that is part of our nation’s heritage, and in the process the author joins the ranks of food-preservationist heroes. Prepare to be overwhelmed with longing for the sweet scent and taste of the pawpaw.”—Poppy Tooker, host of Louisiana Eats!

Pawpaw: In Search of America’s Forgotten Fruit is a fun and well-researched, informative romp through the culture and horticulture of this uncommon fruit. Uncommon, yes, but who would have imagined that there were and are quite a few other pawpaw nuts out there? If you don’t know pawpaws, you should, and you will.”—Lee Reich, PhD, author of Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden

“I was fortunate to have experienced early in life, from my Monacan Indian and Black community friends, the joy of the pawpaw, as well as maypops, chinquapins, mushrooms, and huckleberries. Andy’s book is one of the road maps to the resurrection of another rooted American food commodity. Pawpaw will generate enthusiasm for this unsung fruit and hopefully engender passion in a few.”—Tom Burford, author of Apples of North America: Exceptional Varieties for Growers, Gardeners, and Cooks