Monday, October 26, 2009

Farmers Market Find: Pawpaw

Last year, one of the stands at the Farmers Market I frequent had a box of these green/blue/brown oval shaped fruits labeled Pawpaws. I was curious, but didn't act fast enough, the fruit was only at the stand for about two weeks before it vanished into the out of season mist.
This year, this week and last, there they were again, this time with a sign boasting that they are the only fruit native to North America.

The only fruit indigenous to this continent and yet, we never eat them. Well, that is for one very good reason: they have an impossibly short shelf life and quickly ferment after ripening.

The farmer I got the pawpaws from actually doesn't grow them himself. They grow wild, and the farmer foraged for them in a local state park.

The fruits have a thin skin that you can peel off with your fingers and are full of large, black seeds. The seeds have good insecticidal properties and apparently are used to prevent head lice among some Native Americans. The flesh of the fruit is soft and yellowish, like an banana but mushier.

I would encourage you to try a pawpaw if you can (you may have to wait another year, or depending on where you live, move), except for one thing: I found them to be moderately disgusting. I bought two, one for me and one for my partner, but I ended up nibbling on both by myself. After sampling the first one, I made such a horrid noise that my boyfriend simply said, "after that, I don't want to try it." Maybe mine were overripe and almost to the fermented stage.

Pawpaws are called "prairie bananas," because their texture and taste is similar to bananas. I was told that they tasted like a cross of banana and mango. Yes, I definitely got a cross of banana and mango, but it was more like chalky, artificial banana flavor mixed with very acidic mango. Blegh. Then again, my fruits may have been on the edge, though I did try two that looked as though they were in different stages of the ripening process.

(edit: I wrote this two weeks ago. So, pawpaws are definitely not available. If this didn't discourage you too much, look for them around October next year!)

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