The Pawpaw Report, September 8, 2017

In a particular backyard in Pittsburgh, PA, fruit began to ripen on August 16th. By the 1st of September, more than half of all fruits had been picked or fallen, it seemed.

Elsewhere in Pittsburgh, few fruits were anywhere near ripe around September 1.

Meanwhile, around August 14th, more than 400 miles to the south, fruit in Winston-Salem, North Carolina was also in full production.

And in middle Tennessee, reports indicated that by the end of August pawpaws were just starting to trickle in. It’s suspected that a late freeze, and then a cooler season, affected blooms and pollination, and then ripening times, respectively.

Fruit from a particular tree in Nashville, TN, weighed in at 15 oz. Hopes are that this fruit will make an appearance at the contest at the Ohio Pawpaw Festival.

In southern Louisiana, pawpaw came on fast, in mid-July. By August 11th they were nearly gone.

Good news: once again, you can order pawpaws online. Earthy Delights’ pawpaw sources are in production, and shipping now.

On the other hand, Rocky Point Blueberries (and pawpaws), in Rhode Island, is reporting a lower-than-hoped-for pawpaw crop, and therefore will not be taking online orders. They still have pawpaws though, you just have to visit their farm stand on the 14th and the 21st of October, according to their website, “beginning at 9 am until we sell out. In the past, this has been within an hour.”

To some extent, pawpaws remain a local thing, and take a little work. And that’s alright.

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Pawpaw tree, in a lot. Elkview, West Virginia. 2016.

Grafting Pawpaws

Earlier this year, in May, I got together with a friend to do some pawpaw grafting. This friend, who lives in the Allegheny Valley, northeast of Pittsburgh, was ready to say goodbye to one of his oldest pawpaw trees. Grown from the seed of fruit gathered near the C&O Canal, it just wasn’t very good.

As the seedling grew to fruit-bearing age, so too did a number of the cultivars my friend had also collected and planted. Compared to these named varieties, this seedling’s fruit was too small, its flavor bland and bitter. “They look kinda like short green hot dogs, and drop from the tree without any color break whatsoever,” he said. The fruit paled in comparison, and it seemed a waste of valuable growing space.

My friend had named this original seedling Charlie, after his good friend who had gathered and sent him the seed from which it grew.

 

 

But now it was time for Charlie to die.

 

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Or rather, Charley didn’t actually die. Charlie became root-stock.

I’ll admit it–chopping down a mature pawpaw tree was difficult to do. Not physically, but emotionally. Once I had sawed through it, though, it was time to move on. We prepared ourselves to graft.

 

 

A few weeks prior, my friend attended a workshop on inlay bark grafting at Kentucky State University. The university, along with Neal Peterson, are conducting experiments with this particular grafting technique. Below is a picture I took of an inlay bark graft at KSU’s research orchard in 2016. The amount of growth shown below is from a single season, just a few month’s worth of time.

 

 

To do this graft you chop down a tree to a stump (my friend chose to leave a single nurse branch). You then make parallel incisions into a section of the stump’s bark, the distance between cuts being equal to the width of your scion wood. The stump’s bark is then pried loose, gently and carefully, but not off. A flap of sorts is created. Meanwhile, your scion wood is carved on either side to fit into the bark opening, this flap, and then slides behind the stump’s bark. Finally, we wrapped the graft union with grafting tape, and were done. [Note: two grafts were performed on the Charlie root stock, just in case one did not “take.” One did, the other did not.]

 

 

Months earlier, in late winter, my friend had collected scion wood from his other pawpaw trees, and stored them in his refrigerator. The variety he chose to graft over his Charlie root stock, taken from his scion wood collection, was Susquehanna, a Peterson Pawpaws selection.

Now in early September–a little over three months later–my friend says his inlay grafts are thriving (he did a few that day). The one we did together is already at five feet, and still growing. Five feet of new growth in just one, short, Pennsylvania growing season.

“The leaves of that graft [over Charlie] are 13 inches long and 7 inches across, the biggest pawpaw leaves I have ever seen…I think the fact that they are all near the house gives them good protection from wind.  They’re just all growing like crazy, but Potomac leads them all approaching 7 feet and still going.  The mature trees have stopped producing new growth, unlike the grafts.”

 

 

 

A Pawpaw Ripens in Pittsburgh

~~ Pawpaw: In Search of America’s Forgotten Fruit is now available in paperback. Click here!~~

 

Today is the 1st of September. And in our region, September means pawpaw.

These 30 days, roughly, are pawpaw season for much of the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest.

Personally, this has already been one of the most exciting pawpaw seasons to date.

A few weeks ago I harvested the first pawpaw from the first tree I’d ever grown myself. I started this tree, and its companion a few feet away, from seed seven years ago.

The two seedlings that are now producing have been through quite a bit. Both were started in five gallon buckets before I had any land on which to plant them. They had been variously snapped in half (and eaten!) by groundhogs, crushed by a mulberry limb (chopped down by yours truly), and lost all their flowers to late frosts. And the soil I began with was not ideal.

And yet they thrive, and give fruit.

The fruit ripened quite early for Pittsburgh–on August 16th. I’d begun to gently squeeze the pawpaws a few days earlier, to test for ripeness. I thought I was being impatient; they shouldn’t have been ripe yet. But a single cluster of two fruits did in fact give to the pressure of my fingertips.

I wanted to let it ripen on the tree, not my counter top, so I waited. Perhaps a little too long though, because one morning I looked for the fruit only to find a void where the pawpaws had been, the peduncle now freed of the fruit’s weight.

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Perhaps it’s fitting though that the first pawpaws I grew and ate would have fallen from the tree. Like the song instructs: pickin’ up pawpaws.

 

The largest of the two weighed 5.1 oz, and the smaller weighed just 3 ounces.

The Pawpaw Report — September 15, 2016

I can’t keep up!

If you live north of the Carolinas then you need to get to your patch, to your garden, to your orchard, to your neighbor’s yard–get out there and pick them pawpaws!

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Pawpaws are ripe in the Shenandoah Valley–have been for a little while. But apparently the bears have moved on to acorns, according to a ranger there.

Near Manassas, Virginia, the pawpaws are ripe. A gentleman picked one last Sunday and had it for breakfast this Tuesday.

Pawpaws are ripe in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia; and near Berryville, Virginia.

Garden pawpaws in the southern Allegheny Valley of southwest Pennsylvania are ripe. Dropping daily. In one particular garden, the trees had lost flowers to a late frost. But as has been reported elsewhere, the trees bloomed again, and fruit set is normal.

This weekend is the Ohio Pawpaw Festival. And so the pawpaws must be ripe in southern Ohio.

I’ve just (just!) received word that pawpaws outside Ann Arbor, Michigan, are beginning to drop.

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The Pawpaw Report – September 7, 2016

 

Pawpaws in the gardens of central North Carolina are nearly finished. They may linger elsewhere in the state, and in wild places. Back in the swamps.

Pawpaws in central Kentucky orchards are in full swing. Wild pawpaws are ripening and falling. (And it’s a good year too–fine eating in the orchards and the woods).

 

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Pawpaw in a creek near Frankfort, Kentucky. September 1, 2016. Photo: Andrew Moore

Wild pawpaws in Clifton, Virginia–the report is to come.

Pawpaws in the gardens and orchards of southern Indiana are ripe.

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Jerry Lehman, of Terre Haute, Indiana, shows a ripe pawpaw to fellow participants of Kentucky State University’s 4th International Pawpaw Conference. September 1st, 2016. Photo: Andrew Moore

 

 

A pawpaw was picked from near The Hermitage, Andrew Jackson’s historic home east of Nashville, Tennessee. It was delicious, and stood out. I recall dark orange flesh.

In Chattanooga, Tennessee, pawpaws are ripe near rivers, and falling on heads.

In southern Ohio, many flowers were hit by the late frost. This is true elsewhere, including southwest Pennsylvania, Maryland, and throughout the Mid-Atlantic. In Michigan, however, after a few poor years, growers seem poised for a good crop–an advantage this year for northern growers.

Still, pawpaws are ripening now in southern Ohio.

And a few pawpaws in the Pittsburgh area are beginning to fall.

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Expat dispatch: A pawpaw falls in Utah. (KSU-Atwood was the first to fall this year in that particular garden).

 

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