Please remember that Forage Friday is presented as trivia and not to be mistaken for medical advice.
“Pickin up pawpaws, put’em in your pocket.
Way down yonder in the pawpaw patch”
Every time I eat a pawpaw I hear my papa singing the old children’s song to us boys. I was fairly young but I remember sitting at the vintage art deco table eating his favorite breakfast of light bread and milk. During the Great Depression utilizing stale bread as breakfast cereal would have been a way to stretch out a precious commodity. And during the short season when they were available the pawpaws were a treat and probably eaten at multiple meals. In the Appalachian Mountains and throughout the South pawpaw trees were a popular part of the homestead. It’s an amazing fruit that has a custard like texture and tastes like a blend of Mango, Peach and Banana. And it may have come to West Virginia by way of Mammoth. The fruit is full of huge Chestnut brown seeds that have a thick leathery skin that would have allowed them to survive digestion. In fact In order to propagate a pawpaw from seed they have to frozen for about four months and then the coating knicked so the sprout can grow during germination. Scientists believe that as the mammoth migrated North the pawpaw hitched a ride in their bellies and eventually adapted to the climate of the mountains. They seem to be another edge species that thrives in partial shade and near water. And the biggest reason why we don’t see them in markets is because they have an extremely short shelf life. It’s only recently that some people are experimenting with them as a frozen product because the technology has advanced enough that they can be processed in the field. I have discovered that like bananas they tend to become sweeter as they age and I presume that is due to the breakdown of starch. I knew one person years ago that wouldn’t eat them until the ants became interested in them and then they were sweet enough for him to enjoy.
The entry in Petersen’s Field Guide To Wild Medicinal Plants says that Native Americans would grind the large seeds into a powder which was used to treat lice. As a defense against moths pawpaw trees produce chemicals that are toxic to insects. These chemicals known as Acetoginis are found in the leaves, inner bark and seeds of the pawpaw. In fact the only insect that I’m aware of that eats pawpaw leaves is the larvae of the Zebra Swallowtail.
The inner bark of a pawpaw is said to be good for making ropes and baskets.
Well, that’s it for tonight friends. Good night and be blessed throughout your days.
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