Kimberly Kaufmann, the fearless Leader of Bucks County Slow Food, has devoted herself to local food, and in particular, the pawpaw fruit, which tastes like “a creamy, less mealy banana with vanilla notes.” She recently posted on her blog her adventures tracking and promoting the pawpaw . With her permission…
Last Thursday I spent two hours in Larry Rossi’s pawpaw orchard picking pawpaws. It had taken two years of cultivating a relationship with this elusive man to even get an invitation to the orchard.
Larry chose the pawpaw because he wanted to grow a fruit that didn’t need chemicals to grow successfully and perhaps because it is the underdog, a little understood fruit. Once a favored dessert of George Washington, pawpaws we even sung about in a famous folk song, “Way Down Yonder in the Pawpaw Patch.” Now only a few enjoy its creamy tropical flavor. It tastes like a creamy, less mealy banana with vanilla notes.
My friend Tama met Larry through Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve where she serves on the board of directors. I had mentioned the pawpaw as an Ark Project with Slow Food while she was showing me her own pawpaw tree. It took two years of e-mails and calling to get a return phone call this spring.
Larry is the largest grower of pawpaw trees in the Philadelphia area with over 800 trees in his Langhorne orchard, on the bed of the Neshaminy Creek off Bridgetown Pike and Route 413. Just an enthusiast with another full-time job and a mother at home with Alzheimer’s, Larry rents the land for the orchard.
So why don’t we see pawpaws in the grocery store? Unfortunately they don’t travel well. They need to be eaten a few days after picking. Oh, and did I mention they are only in season for about two-three weeks a year?
So last Thursday we were meeting to talk about a Slow Food tour we were going to host the following week. We had to change the date and move it back two weeks because the pawpaws were not ripening due to our cloudy, rainy summer.
As we began walking around the orchard, Larry showed me how to tell when the fruit is ripe – when the fruit has a slight squish to it and only when its larger than your hand. Larry started to notice there seemed to be more ripe pawpaws then then his last trip to the orchard the day before. Uh oh.
We began packing boxes. I promised to take the fruit to local Bucks County chefs to see what they could do with them. This was going to the be the year of the Pawpaw as far as I was concerned!
I thought most chefs would use the pawpaw for desserts but Chef David Zuckerman from Earl’s at Peddler’s Village in Lahaska made grilled prawns in a Thai pawpaw sauce. Nice.
Since the farm tour got cancelled (maybe due to the changing date of the harvest), I will be hitting the streets with the pawpaws this weekend attending farm markets and festivals with my funny fruit.
Kimberly will be at the Wrightstown Farmers Market this Saturday with her pawpaw harvest. Be sure to stop by!