Dear Pawpaw Fruit Seekers,
SCARCITY FOR 2023 PAWPAW FRUIT
I am gifting a few ripe pawpaws to vendors at the Hardwick Farmers Market with the hope that you will support this wonderful venue on the Hardwick Common on Sundays from 11-2 until October 29, 2023. Ask for a pawpaw and it is yours as a gift.
The freeze on May 17th, 2023 killed flowers, young pawpaw fruit, and growing tips. Let's hope for a bountiful 2024 crop.
I am glad that Harvard student Sarah Faber interviewed me for this informative and entertaining article about pawpaws. For my zone 5 climate at 900 feet above sea level, my peak ripening period is mid-October to early November. My corrections to Sarah's article: I moved to Hardwick in 1989 and planted my first pawpaw trees from Tripple Brook Farm 1995. in In 2005 I planted a Neal Peterson grafted cultivar Rappahannock instead of Rapanoic.
FAQ: I do not sell pawpaw trees. I realize that my sourcing information below is outdated. High quality pawpaw trees are scarce and there is heightened interest in edible landscaping. My advice is to seek out grafted Peterson cultivars. Shenandoah is a great choice in terms of ripening a month earlier than Sunflower strains, having larger fruit, fewer and smaller seeds, and several years faster maturity to production. Read vendor reviews. Only purchase pawpaw trees with large healthy root balls. Younger trees with massive roots will survive transplanting shock much easier. Water deeply and frequently.
I do not ship pawpaw fruit. Shipping is a nuisance in terms of packaging items carefully and making a dreaded trip to the post office or the UPS shipping pick up location. Some past shipments of perishable fruit have take more than two weeks.The outcome can be rotten fruit making both you and me miserable. Integration Acres is in the business of shipping pawpaw fruit and does a great job.
I recommend highly the wonderful pawpaw video by Blanche Cybele Derby for the gorgeous imagery and valuable information. Blanche is a very effective teacher with her clear and helpful advice and keen observational skills. Her enthusiastic dancing intro in a pawpaw grove makes me smile every time.
A favorite recipe is pawpaw soda. I need only a spoonful of deseeded and skinless pawpaw flesh. In a tall glass I use a fork to puree the fruit. Then I fill the glass with seltzer, stir, and then enjoy the taste and aroma of flavors like coconut, mango, and banana. A great cocktail is a mix of rum, ginger ale, ice, and a tablespoon of mashed pawpaw fruit. Many adore the fragrance of ripening pawpaws. I enjoy transporting them in a vehicle that fills with the heavy fruity scent. Having pawpaws in your car is a great reason to keep your windows closed.
As a reminder, eat only the pawpaw flesh. Do not eat the skin or seeds. The seeds are beautiful and make gorgeous jewelry beads.
It is not my intention to take advantage of scarcity and price gouge people that have a sincere interest in purchasing this fruit. Most of you are very nice people and have a strong interest in sustainable agriculture, unusual fruits, and local food. You are a crowd that I enjoy being with and can relate to easily.
I am humbled knowing that thanks to word of mouth and Google searches, I continue to receive several dozen inquiries regarding the pawpaws. Requests for fruit have come from Texas, Illinois, and Oregon. A few years ago, a wonderful couple from Quebec City stopped by to buy fruit. As an appreciation of thanks, I was sent a photo of my pawpaw with La Citadelle in the background. Many of you are willing to drive more than two hours in your quest to taste this amazing fruit. Please contact me before your long trek to Hardwick to make sure that I have ripe fruit available for you. I know that some of you have started to grow pawpaw trees in your yard and will eventually have your own crop. I realize that the attention I am getting will not last in the long term. As I explain below, my former colleagues at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) use to tease me as The Pawpaw Queen. My reign will end when many more of you have your own productive pawpaw groves. I encourage of you to plant pawpaw trees, even if you live in a city. A loyal customer is growing a tree on his Boston patio in a large pot. Other pawpaw fans take seeds with them on hikes. Along the trail and near rivers, the seeds are planted. There are now established pawpaw trees in Monson, Massachusetts in areas that were devastated by a tornado in 2011.
Usually, my pawpaw trees that yield several buckets of fruit in autumn. I sell many pawpaws at the Hardwick Farmers Market. Contact Abbie before you make the trek to make sure fruit is available. Unannounced pawpaw seekers have come from as far away as Toronto, Schenectady, Rockport, Providence, and Hartford. Sometimes these people have been terribly disappointed since unripe fruit is inedible and is best left on the trees. In November I collaborate with Still Life Farm and direct customers to their markets in metro Boston.
In November 2011, the Boston TV show Chronicle featured the Town of Hardwick as a Mystery Town. Previously on my website, I displayed images showing Stan hypnotizing a rooster. The Chronicle producer asked if chicken hypnotism tourism could be featured on the show. With sensitivity to our public image, I suggested that pawpaw fruit was very cool and the TV crew was welcome. I quickly deleted the chicken photos. The Chronicle show was seen widely and Hardwick suddenly became a desirable destination. My WPI colleagues changed my office door title from Lab Manager to Pawpaw Queen. A professor crafted a pawpaw seed necklace that I wear when marketing the fruits. I left employment at WPI in 2015. However, my identity as Pawpaw Queen has stuck and makes me giggle.
My thoughts are based on pawpaw tree sourcing and cultivation experiences for about three decades. I endorse the named and patented Peterson grafted cultivar varieties for the reasons of earlier maturity, larger fruit with smaller seeds, dwarfer status, and better flavor. The variety that has done really well for me is Shenandoah. However, this one can be in short supply. If you can find this grafted tree, I recommend it highly.
You can save the seeds from the fruit you eat and grow them. Customers have sent me photos of trees growing from my fruit. Be sure to keep the seeds moist and cool until planting time. I keep mine in a small plastic bag in the refrigerator. The seeds germinate well in about a month at 70F when placed in damp germination soil. Large roots precede shoot growth. The plants have huge extensive root systems and hate transplanting. Try to situate young trees in a permanent location and water well to get them established. In the wild, these are understory trees near rivers. My trees grow fine in full sun. I fertilize my trees almost every year with composted manure. I recommend planting in the early spring. Be sure to water the trees water deeply and often. The roots are very thirsty in hot and dry weather. I have poor sandy soil and will let a hose run for several hours during the summer. I have noticed that hot and dry weather during pollination can lead to premature dropping of young dessicated fruit clusters. I am now using a sprinkler to add humidity to the pawpaw grove during the pollination period. My crop continues to be grown without pesticides, fungicides, and chemical fertilizer. The only input supplied to the trees is compost.
Many of my pawpaws came from Forest Keeling Nursery. One Green World has provided my brother-in-law and I with large healthy plants. Burnt Ridge Nursery has interesting offerings. Oikos Tree Crops has great prices and interesting edibles including various nut trees. Raintree Nursery has been around for a long time and has many unusual landscape edibles. Tripple Brook Farm is a local and the owner has a passion for pawpaw fruit. My first Sunflower seedling derived pawpaw trees came from this wonderful business in Southampton MA in 1996. My sister purchased high quality pawpaw trees from Charlie West in New Jersey. You can reach this grower through his website for West Farm Nursery.
My dear friend Ted has an excellent website with great information about pawpaw fruit. He is the greatest pawpaw enthusiast that I know. Ted plants pawpaw seeds while hiking. The pawpaw is a native tree that has lost many habitats over the centuries.
Pawpaw trees are very beautiful in landscapes. They are tidy and are very easy to grow organically. I love watching the banana like clusters of fruit develop from the gorgeous red flowers in May and June. Interestingly, the flowers begin as female with a receptive stigma and age to male with brown dust like pollen. Flies instead of bees pollinate flowers. I clean out my freezer and pantry every year to find fly attractants. I have lured flies to the trees with rancid pork sausages, canned squid, and past pull date menudo stew. While cross-pollination is very important, I have had fruit develop on a lone isolated tree. Contact Abbie at email@example.com if you have questions about pawpaws.
May 17, 2023 is now known in my area as the big freeze and plant killing day. Temperatures dropped to the 20s in the early morning and killed and injured many wild and native plants. Vineyards will not have grapes. There will be many fewer berries.
Thankfully, I live on top of a hill at about 900 feet elevation. Thankfully, my grove is surrounded by tall evergreens that buffer extreme temperature fluctuations. Thankfully, Stan warned me on May 16th that that I should prepare for a very cold night. He purchased a sprinkler and fixed a hose for me. I began spraying the grove with water at 7 PM and continued to run the water for 12 hours. You can see from the photos that I ended up with impressive icicles. That ice protected many of the pawpaw leaves and fruit by acting as an insulating blanket from the extreme cold. Where I did not spray water, I ended up with some brown foliage tree tips. Overall, the pawpaw tree freeze damage could have been much worse. A friend in Petersham thinks that she has lost most of her pawpaw orchard.
I am reactive to this week's special weather statement for a "Red Flag Warning". I learned through trial and error that young pawpaw fruit are fragile. A few years ago, there was a span of very hot and dry weather before Memorial Day. With dismay I watched dozens of newly pollinated pawpaw flowers and small banana clusters of fruit desiccate and drop to the ground. After despair I realized that I could manage this situation with a water sprinkler. Since my pawpaw grove is located on top of a ledge rock hill, I am always watering the trees anyway with a long hose. During the summer I will water each pawpaw tree for an entire day. Now I understand the importance of both tree root and young pawpaw fruit hydration. I believe that misting with water helps improve pollination prospects, too. Water drops on flowers and young pawpaw fruit are beautiful and offer hope for a great crop.
Romantic drama of crimson flowers
From brown fuzzy buds quiet all winter
Patient waiting for warmth and spring showers
Female blossoms being first to occur
Inside red petals yellow stigmas sticky
Receptive to timely fertilization
Not relying on the busy working bee
Best to encourage a fly intervention
Freezer finds of forgotten rancid meat
Contained inside tied pantyhose hanging
Recruiting the flies for a stinky treat
With nearby pollen going hitchhiking
Shuttling pollen can succeed or fail
Success is many green fingered clusters
Failed pollination turns flowers to male
Offering pollen like feather dusters
Summer begins with small, stellated fruits
Rewards of pollination romance pursuits
Male flower showing that flies are important for pollination