Lost Arts studio

A lot of the fiber arts I enjoy are things like tatting, netmaking, chair caning, and even weaving, where people will come up to me when I demonstrate and solemnly tell me, "That's a lost art."

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Location: SW Outer Nowhere, Michigan, United States

On the Internet, nobody knows you're a chicken. (With apologies to Peter Steiner.)



04 December 2009

Way Down Yonder in the Paw Paw Patch

My first encounter with the paw paw, Asimina triloba, was in the kids' song:

Where, oh where is pretty little Susie?
Where, oh where is pretty little Susie?
Where, oh where is pretty little Susie?
Way down yonder in the paw-paw patch.

Come on, boys [or girls, or kids], let's go find her,
Come on, boys, let's go find her,
Come on, boys, let's go find her,
Way down yonder in the paw-paw patch.

Pickin' up paw-paws, puttin' 'em in her pockets,
Pickin' up paw-paws, puttin' 'em in her pockets,
Pickin' up paw-paws, puttin' 'em in her pockets,
Way down yonder in the paw-paw patch.
I didn't encounter a paw paw in the flesh until I was in college.

I went to Michigan State University, and I did a little work for the head of the extension office, who gave me a bag of ripe paw paws.

The extension office was working with growers, selecting for larger, sweeter fruit.

I took that bag of paw paws back to my dorm room and learned how to eat them.

Oh, man, if you get a good one, a ripe paw paw is the tastiest thing. Sweet and smooth, it's sort of like a banana with a much smoother texture. The family name, custard-apple, refers to that smooth texture.

This photo doesn't show the seeds, which are enormous. If you've ever grown scarlet runner beans, they're about that big, often a good inch long, and dark chocolate brown.

I've never been successful in growing a tree from seed, but I have two that we bought from paw paw breeder Corwin Davis years ago. (If you get a paw paw cultivar called the Davis, it's named after him.)

One tree blooms. The other one keeps spreading via root sprouts. I'll have a regular little paw paw grove out there some day, and maybe eventually number two will flower.

The flowers are pollinated by flies. Corwin Davis said he never got very good pollination until he started hanging road kill in the trees. We often note the heaviest fruit set near the latrine along the old railroad grade where we pick ripe paw paws!

They usually fruit around my birthday in early October. If we find some, eating them makes a nice birthday treat.

4 Comments:

Blogger Bells said...

oh i'm confused. That doesn't look anything like the paw paw I know - well not much like it. And a custard apple is a big, misshapen pale lumpy thing with a texture like custard.

This photo shows what I think of as a paw paw.

http://www.faqs.org/photo-dict/photofiles/list/1925/2527paw_paw.jpg

6:11 AM  
Blogger Marguerite said...

Interesting. We have a Paw Paw address, but I've never seen one in person. Or maybe I have and didn't know what it was? Will have to pay more attention.

9:31 AM  
Blogger Roxie said...

What fun! I've never eaten a pawpaw. I thought it was a variant pronunciation of papaya, and had no idea they were a temperate zone plant. Geeze, where you live, they must be sub-arctic. Something new to live for! I can not die until I've eaten pawpaw.

9:51 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

Thank you so much for the paw paw post. I've been wanting to try one ever since I heard of them. Save me a couple of seeds if you will, I'd like to give it a try!

11:34 AM  

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