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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Pickin Up Pawpaws...

Picking up pawpaws - put 'em my 'em for a rainy day ....
A few of today's paw paws ~ photo courtesy Bob Rutkowski

The old children's folk song ran through my head as I walked through the wet and rain drenched patch of bottom woods.I could remember walking in the bottoms with my mother singing the song in the early fall as we sniffed out the sweet banana like scent of ripe fallen pawpaws.

It's the time of year for pawpaws to start ripening and falling. Pawpaws  are always ripe right behind the first early flights of teal that come balled up and blasting into the same  low bottom pot holes and damp places where the pawpaw trees thrive.
Right behind the teal, right ahead of the hen of the woods, and right along side of the elderberries.
Clumps of still green paw paws hanging heavy in the trees

It's good foraging right now - better temperatures, enough moisture, it's time to wander the neighborhood harvesting enough of things for a few treats now and if there is plenty, enough to put up for the rest of the year.

Today was check the pawpaw patch day. Sadly there trees didn't seem to be holding as many this year as in the past couple of years, but the trees that are producing well are making bigger ones than usual. Mother Nature's compromise for us I'm thinking. They aren't quite ripe yet, some are just coming on, but I still grabbed a few to take home and ripen on the counter.

Sill a little on the green side. The dark spots on the rind don't hurt a thing.

Ripe pawpaws don't last long in the woods. Virtually every four footed creature likes to dine on them, and many times I've seen a stack of them tucked into a brush pile or against a log by some enterprising creature stashing the sweet treats.
Some four footed friend had been snacking and stashing with this pile

Pawpaws have sweet creamy almost banana custard like taste and texture. They are good simply split open and scooped out with a spoon, made in a custard sauce, pies, cakes - the list of culinary uses for the pulp is long.

If I have extra pulp, I simply fill freezer bags or boxes with it and put in the freezer to use later in the year.
Paw Paw Pulp - ready for the freezer

While just scooping it out of the rind with spoon (and occasionally my fingers )  and slurping it up is actually my favorite way to consume paw paws, here are a couple of recipes from Kentucky State University Pawpaw Program that I particularly like. Many nuts are starting to drop now too, so don't forget to gather up a few batches of those too!

The cookies are good snack tucked into a pack while your out hanging stands, checking trail cameras, roaming,  wandering and foraging in the fall forest.The dense moist bread makes a good breakfast or bedtime treat , slathered with butter and served with a good cup tea or coffee.

Pawpaw Bread
  • 1 c. pawpaw puree
  • 1/3 c. shortening
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1¾ c. flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. baking soda
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
Cream shortening, add sugar gradually, and beat until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in pawpaw puree. Sift together remaining dry ingredients and add in four portions, beating smooth each time. Pour batter into a greased, floured loaf pan (8x4x3-inches) and bake in a moderate oven (350o F) for about 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the loaf comes out clean. Cool on rack before slicing. Makes 1 loaf.

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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