Posted by: tlnemethy | September 20, 2013

Paw Paw Fever

“I really love your peaches, want to shake your tree.”DSCF0214

I really couldn’t help but mentally sing that song lyric in a loop while I was on the prowl for paw paws. I’d never heard of them before coming to Missouri and making a bold claim to my culinary skills. I can work with any ingredient really. Totally, got a hold on the kitchen; I just don’t want to upstage the wannabees on Top Chef. Anyways, they’re this awesome fruit that has a creamy consistency similar to a sweet guacamole encased in a rind. Also, according to the wonders that are Wikipedia, it is the largest fruit indigenous to the United States.

I’m hooked. I LOVE states that give me the chance to pick my own food from the trees. Louisiana had figs and oranges, Missouri has paw paws.  Basically, they clump together in the treetops like baseballs stretched slightly oblong and wait until you shake them to tumble to the ground and threaten concussions with every to and fro. It just so happened to be raining today, great gusts of downpours coming so infrequently that they lulled you into complacency and had you refuse to wear a raincoat. Honestly though, the rain felt wonderful against my skin as I wandered in the canopy of the Ozarks. We stayed on the path at first, our feet tramping down on clear cut grass on the way to the river, before realizing the Paw Paw trees in that area had been dropping fruit too early or had been clawed down by some especially hungry armadillos. We moved on.

DSCF0213I was wearing my work gloves. A new fangled pair of “spider gloves” I’d bought on the way here since my previous pair had been demolished by excessive use. I didn’t realize we were going to go bush whacking in the middle of a jungle of spiders the size of silver dollars and snakes that lurked under every leafy spot. To say the least, I was uncomfortable with the notion. Brushing aside the long tangled web of intertwined tree limbs and Jurassic Park style vegetation I made my way up a slippery incline with a bucket in one hand and clinging to the tiniest branches to aid my ascent. Even with an empty bucket I was struggling a bit to avoid face planting in the slick muck and potential snakebite.

There might be a clarification necessary here. To me, snakebite is imminent and I’ve been doing my damndest to not succumb to that fate. Alaska was frostbite, Michigan I got electrocuted, Minnesota had an entire evening of bad news bears. Of course, Missouri has to bring something similar to the other terrible work experiences. And what does Missouri offer besides big spiders and poisonous snakes? To be determined.

Every time I looked up into the high branches to find the optimum tree to shake, a large raindrop would descend from the sky and momentarily blind me. Today I chose to wear contact lenses so the humidity wouldn’t fog them up while I was working. What’s better than foggy sight? Blindness. I would shake the tree and duck my head as close to the trunk as possible, hoping that the heavy and sometimes extremely hard fruit wouldn’t kill me. At least my tombstone would offer a little dose of humor to my death. Here lies Salmon; killed by low hanging fruit.

It was beyond amazing. Hearing the thunk of fruit hitting the brush around you is so much fun after a long day of picking mushrooms, cleaning leeks, and redistributing cow fence.  We pulled out four buckets of paw paws to sell at market tomorrow and I get the junky ones to attempt the creation of Paw Paw bread and/or Paw Paw icecream. Recipes to follow.


  1. I, for one, am very glad you picked the paw paw. Thank you, it was delicious as we shared a great day with you and others at Amelia and Eric’s homestead for a high tunnel covering. Tory, I really like your blog and your wonderful sarcasm!! What a pleasure it was to meet you! Linda

  2. Isn’t the paw paw known as the Michigan banana?

    • Never heard of it as such, but I’d like to hope so. Delicious, but the taste is overpowering.

      • Is there any way to find out where Paw Paw trees would be in Mo? I live near the Halltown, Bois D Arc, Republic, Spfld areas and have been looking for some trees but it seems they are almost gone. 😦

      • I’m new to the revelation of Paw Paw trees,but around here they seem to grow along water and in shady river bank areas. If you contact area agriculture associations they might be more forthcoming with information. I only know them because I see them everywhere here.

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