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Way down yonder in the pawpaw patch....
Wait, we have a pawpaw patch? Yes we do! Sort of. It's more of a clump of trees at the bottom of a small ravine in our woods. We own about an acre or so of woodlands that have been mostly inaccessible since we arrived. There are a few access points to it, but one is covered with a hedge of blackberry bushes, poison ivy, and even some knockout roses, another is the tick infested overgrown meadow that was recently bushhogged by a kind neighbor, and the third is kind of a long walk around (this makes me sound lazy, I assure you, it's FAR). We need a UTV so we can get around the property easier.
We had been putting off going in the woods until winter. We figured the stabby and poisonous plants would be down by then, but after a full day at the Ohio Pawpaw Festival and the liquid courage of pawpaw beer we decided to grab a machete and limb loppers and bushwack our way in to hunt for pawpaws.
Much to my surprise, we totally found some! It was a treacherous hike in this first time around. Eventually we hope to cut a real trail through our small wooded patch. As we keep going in to find ripe pawpaws it will get worn down a bit without too much extra effort.
So what's a pawpaw say you? A pawpaw is a native tropical fruit. It grows in various areas, but our region in Ohio has a ton! You can click the pawpaw link and read all about them on wikipedia if you want to know more than I share here. It has the taste of a banana and a mango combined, and custard like texture. You either love them or hate them. Jared, Aurora, and I love them, Orion was not a fan. You know they are ripe when their green skin starts to get brown and spotty. You don't normally have to pick pawpaws, they fall off the tree when they are ready and when you are near a patch you can smell them. If you find a tree and it's mid August to late September and there are no pawpaws on the ground you can gently shake it and the ripe ones will fall. Just don't stand under a cluster! Those suckers hurt! They are nicknamed the "hipster banana." I'm not sure I agree with this, unless you refer to all people that are excited about wild nutritious food hipsters. If you don't live in an area where they grow, you are unlikely to have a chance to enjoy them as they don't travel well because they bruise easily and they are only ripe for a few days at room temperature so you won't see them at the grocer. A few farmers markets near where they grow do have them though, and you get them for a few bucks a piece or $10 - $15 a pound.
This year we are just going to enjoy them in season. You can freeze them, but I'm feeling overwhelmed by the apples and other things that need preserving at the moment, so I'm not looking to add to my list of "to do's." Once ripe, I like to keep them in the fridge so I can enjoy them cold. I've been eating two a day, and we might bake some into pawpaw bread if we find we are collecting more than we can eat. To eat a pawpaw I cut them in half and scoop the flesh out with a spoon. Just like you eat a kiwi. They are filled with HUGE seeds, but I clean those off with my teeth and spit them out. We have a giant pile of seeds in our kitchen. I'm bouncing ideas around in my head about how to sprout the seedlings and transplant them into our patch. They need lots of shade, and humidity, so I can't just put them in a garden bed. Maybe I will see if I can create a good micro-climate for them under a large tree in the yard or a shady spot outside. We have a nice corner of the porch shade loving plants have been thriving in as long as I remember to water them....So maybe I'll have some neato tropical trees in pots for a couple years. Most of the time I have no idea what I'm doing! I like to wing it when it comes to fun extra side projects.
So besides being something kind of cool, I'm sure you are wondering how this is relevant to our homestead. It's wild foraging, which is a great way to eat local and in season. We did this in AZ with prickly pears. We made prickly pear margaritas, jello, and jelly. In Ohio we've foraged blackberries for pies, and now pawpaws for consumption. I'm hoping to go mushroom hunting in the spring and if they aren't already in our woods encouraging them to grow there.
I missed the opportunity to share all about our blackberry adventures. I forgot to take notes, pictures, and generally lacked the time to blog. I was not going to miss the opportunity to share about pawpaws though. I had never heard of them, so I figured many of you haven't either. I'm hoping to learn about more wild foraging opportunities in our new state, and as I do I'll share!
Do you wild forage? Have you ever had a pawpaw? Let me know in the comments or on Facebook! I truly love getting to know you and hearing about your adventures.
This post contains ads & affiliate links which means we make a small commission when you purchase from some of the links shared in this post. Making a purchase from a link will not cause you to pay more or affect your purchase in any way. It will however, support our wildest farmin' dreams, which is mighty awesome of you.