The pawpaw (or paw paw) is a fruit-bearing tree with a range from northern Florida to southern Ontario, and from the east coast to Nebraska (thanks, Wikipedia). Naturally, with a river town (and tunnel) named Paw Paw, the Potomac Valley has its fair share of the tree and the fruit. Today, we walked the original towpath between Dam 4 and the Guard Lock and saw several clusters of the trees. The children’s song “Way Down Yonder in the Pawpaw Patch” certainly has its merits–they do grow in bunches.
The tree has a broad leaf to go with its spindly stock, and the heavy fruit often weighs down the tree and causes it to bend. The fruit is about the size of a pear, and it’s usually ripe sometime in mid-September–although old-timers generally place its ripeness sometime in the vicinity of the first frost of autumn. Unfortunately, the pawpaws we saw today weren’t quite ripe. Bummer!
I haven’t eaten a pawpaw in years, but the taste and texture are really hard to forget. It kind of reminds me of banana custard or a banana cream pie. Another thing I remember is an old fellow telling me many years ago to never eat a pawpaw until it’s completely ripe. He also told me to never have more than one or two at a time. He must have learned from his mistakes, so I will definitely heed the warning.