This time of year often brings questions surrounding a fruit that many have long forgotten. Just the mention of it, however, takes some people straight back to their childhood to recall a fruit that I have found is either loved or hated.
As a youngster, I knew the fruit existed. It was talked about a lot among my family members, especially this time of year, but I couldn’t remember ever tasting the fruit, or even having the opportunity.
In 2015, the first year of the Magoffin County Farmers’ Market, it was late in the season (about this time), and I made my rounds with the vendors and took photos of their produce/goods to post on Facebook, as I do every time the market is open and I am able to attend. I posted the photos and began my usual routine–checking scales, distributing bags, staking tents, etc. A short time passed, and I had just sat down to talk to one of the vendors, who is also a GA participant, when a car barreled into the market parking lot, nearly turning over as it made the sharp left-hand turn, and came to a screeching halt. Two ladies threw themselves–and I mean threw themselves–out of the car as they clutched their purses. They collected themselves as they approached the vendors. The vendors and I looked on with no idea what the rush could possibly be to get to the market.
One of the women walked to the tents and asked, “Who has the pawpaws? We saw pawpaws in the Facebook pictures.” Still in shock, everyone peered at the women. In shear panic, the second woman asked, “Are they already gone?!”
I couldn’t help but laugh when I answered, “Tim has the pawpaws, and fortunately for you all, he hasn’t sold a single basket.”
They breathed a big sigh of relief, smiled from ear to ear, and headed for Tim’s table. They were breaking open the pawpaws and squeezing the sweet treat into their mouths while they searched frantically through their billfolds to find enough money to buy every basket of pawpaws. One of the women even resorted to going back to the car to scrounge up some change to pay the final bill.
After they had scarfed down at least three pawpaws each, they began to talk about the sweet memories that flooded their minds at the mere sight of the fruit. One picture on Facebook had summoned their past. They laughed and shared stories about physically fighting over the fruit during their childhood, and couldn’t wait to get home and share the pawpaws with their mother.
The next week, Tim showed up to the market with more pawpaws. Curious to see what all the fuss was about, I asked to try one of the almost-rotten-looking fruit. Tim showed me how to get into the fruit and squeeze the fruit out in order to eat it. It didn’t look particularly appetizing, but I tried it anyway. Several of the vendors assured me that it tasted like a combination of mango and banana…I can’t imagine the offspring of a mango and banana tasting anything like that, but maybe I had a hard time getting past the strange texture. While it was certainly edible, I decided I would not pay for the fruit, nor would I almost kill myself to get to the market to buy any.
Although I do not fall into the category of people who love a good, ripe pawpaw, I do respect the “forgotten fruit.” I also get phone calls every year at this time from people who want information about starting pawpaws from seed and where to find the fruit. I always share some of my favorite resources, including this link to a story featuring John Porter, a former West Virginia University Extension Agent: http://www.wvgazettemail.com/life-gardening/20160915/garden-guru-how-to-get-your-own-pawpaw-patch-started
Kentucky State University also has some great pawpaw information: