Have you ever eaten a pawpaw? It is one of the most delicious fruits on earth.
The Frederick News-Post published an article today about a commercial pawpaw orchard north of Westminster called Deep Run Pawpaw Orchard. Run by Jim and Donna Davis, it is one of few commerical pawpaw orchards in the world. I wondered how these folks could deal with the temperamental nature of these fruits, which have the softness of a banana. According to the FNP article,
The fruits are picked slightly under ripe "at just the right time" and stored in bins by variety and in a chilly 36- to 42-degree refrigerator to slow the ripening process and where they can keep for up to two weeks. Fruits picked too soon will not ripen properly and that will affect the taste.
I know this is true because a friend of mine picked some early once and they never ripened. It's pawpaw season in the wild now too, if a little on the late side, and the best place to look for them is on the banks of the Monocacy or the Potomac.
The pawpaw is a native plant in Frederick, MD, though the varieties grown in the orchard are hardier cultivars:
Each variety has unique characteristics. Shenandoah, with a custard-like texture and a sweet, but mild fruity flavor, and Alleghany, which has a richer flavor, are farmers' market favorites, said Donna. Susquehanna produces larger fruits that are firm with a buttery texture and sweet fruity flavor. PA Golden has a more pronounced pawpaw flavor. Overleese is much like Shenandoah, only smaller. Taytwo has a smooth yellow flesh and a sweet flavor.
According to the Christian Science Monitor, the orchard may be the largest pawpaw grower in the world. This is exciting because a local chef has been trying to find a supplier of these for some time and they have been in our backyard all along. Want to get pawpaws? CSM shares how:
The harvested pawpaws are stored in the cooler and shipped out twice a week to buyers. Some go to Mackintosh Fruit Farm in Berryville, Va., for retail sale, some to other farms, and others are sold to the websites http://www.earthy.com/ and http://www.heritagefoodsusa.com/, where they are marketed as a gourmet delicacy for $10 a pound...Some of the Davises’ pawpaws will be made into ice cream again this year by South Mountain Creamery, a Middletown, Md., dairy that produces homemade ice cream, Donna says.
The pawpaw is in the same family as a cherimoya (also called a custard pear), and its flavor and smell are surprisingly tropical. The CSM article states, "The air at Deep Run Pawpaw Orchard carries the faint aroma of banana and mango. Inside the walk-in cooler where the harvested pawpaws are stored, the scent is much stronger, sweeter — so powerful that you can almost taste their tropical flavor, reminiscent of banana, mango, pineapple, and custard."
Other interesting facts about the pawpaw from CSM:
Many people may have never heard of a pawpaw, but it is the largest edible fruit native to the United States, Mr. Davis says. It was cultivated by American Indians, nourished early settlers and passed down through generations of some families, he says, but it is gaining a new interest as well among chefs and the local food movement.
For more on the pawpaw, see this other article from CSM.
Picture is reprinted from the Christian Science Monitor with the following caption: "Jim Davis surveys his pawpaw trees on his five-acre Deep Run Pawpaw Orchard in Union Mills, Md. (Ken Koons/Carroll County Times/AP) "