Sunday, September 21, 2008

It's pawpaw season!

Today I visited a friend who happened to have a bag of pawpaws that she recently picked in a wild area along a local stream. I had never tasted one before, so she sent me home with a few. I wasted no time cutting one open and tasting it for myself.

The fruit was partly ripe and partly rotten. I cut the rotten, brown part off and dug into the yellow-orange flesh, which had a tropical sweetness and a banana-like texture. It was delicious. The huge seeds were easy to eat around. The fruit looked something like a cherimoya (which is in the same family), which I loved when I lived in California. The pawpaw fruit was about 3 inches long and 1.5 inches wide. It was green on one side and black on the other (the black side was rotten). I found the picture above at slow food international. The fruit looked very similar except the flesh was pencil-colored. For more information about the pawpaw, check out wikipedia and Virginia Tech websites.

Now is the time to harvest these local, native fruits. You can pick them and eat them yourself, or you can give them to Growing Native. Growing Native is a local project that collects native tree seeds and sends them to state tree nurseries to grow for environmental restoration.

Here's a recipe for pawpaw and black walnut cookies from the University of Kentucky website. Black walnut is also a native tree; it is dropping its delicious, edible nuts now. They are similar to English walnuts, but have a strong, distinctive flavor that is a little bitter.

Pawpaw Cookies with Black Walnuts

  • ¾ c. pureed pawpaw pulp
  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ c. butter
  • ½ c. brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ½ c. black walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350o F and grease one large cookie sheet. Peel and seed fresh pawpaws and process in a food processor until fine. Sift together the flour and baking powder, and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg. Add the flour mixture and then add the pawpaw pulp. Chop half the nuts (reserve 16 pieces) and blend them in. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto the prepared cookie sheet and press a piece of black walnut onto the top of each cookie. Bake 12 minutes or until brown across the top. Makes about 16 cookies.

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