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Sharing Pawpaws

            Recently there have been a bunch of articles about pawpaws in the national media, notably in the Atlantic and the New Yorker, framing paw paws as the latest gotta-have-it new thing for Brooklyn hipsters, which is weird, because I learned about them from a friend in graduate school, in North Carolina, sixteen years ago. My own pawpaw tree finally gave its first fruit last year, at age fifteen, and this year we had eight or nine pawpaws of various sizes and shapes. It’s possible that everyone else heard about pawpaws around the same time as I did, and only now do they have enough fruit to harvest and sell at random outdoor markets in Brooklyn, but who knows.

            There’s something magical about these awkward, exotic, frail, native American fruit that is made for proselytizing, so I can understand why the people who have tasted them have been whispering and planting and trying to grow the fan club.

Cricket is in the club

            Mom and I ate the first of this year’s pawpaws just before Rosh Hashanah, and the last one to celebrate the end of Yom Kippur ten days later, and in between we shared the rest of the pawpaws with family and friends, with my therapist and rabbi, and possibly with a squirrel or two, because the biggest pawpaw disappeared after the gardeners came one day a few weeks ago; so either they knocked the fruit to the ground and squirrels ran away with it, or one of the gardeners took it home. Either way, I hope whoever found it enjoyed it.

            My hope is that we will get an even bigger harvest of pawpaws next year, and that my younger trees will be ready to fruit sooner rather than later, because there’s real joy in being able to share a pawpaw with someone who’s never tasted one before. I don’t think I’ll ever have enough fruit to start freezing the pulp for cakes and jams and pies and so on, the way the foragers in the magazine articles described, but I only need a few each year to keep the magic going, sharing them with new people and reminding myself of how special they are.

“But I like cakes, jams, and pies!”

            One of the articles talked about scientific research being attempted to make the pawpaws better able to withstand travel and time, so that they can be sold at supermarkets instead of turning to mush before the truck can ever get there, but I’m not sure how I feel about that kind of pawpaw. There’s something about the resonance of pawpaws, the way they seem to encapsulate longing and patience and grief and love and loss, in a sweetness that only lasts a few days, and I’m not sure it would be the same if I could just pick up a pound of pawpaws on the way home from work.

My favorite supermarket.

            In case anyone is interested I’m going to add links to some of the pawpaw articles (though some of my favorites are no longer available online), because sharing an article about pawpaws is almost (but not quite) as satisfying as sharing a pawpaw itself.


Move Over Acai – It’s the pawpaw’s time -

Why is the most American fruit so hard to buy?

The Promise of Pawpaw –

The Mad Scientist of Pawpaws –

Queen of the Pawpaws –

 If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

            Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?

About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

52 responses »

  1. You mentioned ‘gardeners’ and my hackles went up after the incident with the gardeners and your paw paw trees a few years ago. I hope, if they did take the fruit, that they liked it.

  2. I did not know that paw paws were an American fruit. I have never had one.

  3. I read the Atlantic article and immediately thought of you. When I saw the title of this post, I looked it up so I could share it with you, but I see you are way ahead of me! I’ll try to read some of the other articles as well.

  4. Pretty soon you’ll be seeing #pawpaws. Maybe your blog planted the seed?

  5. I don’t think I’ve even seen one, never mind tasted one.

  6. I’ve just realised that there is a difference between American pawpaw (native to north America) and what I call pawpaw which some people call papaya. I grew up with yellow and red pawpaws which are one among my favourite tropical fruit along with mangoes.

  7. How interesting! I’ve never seen a pawpaw before … and certainly never tasted one. I hope you get a bumper crop next year!

  8. Maybe you writing about pawpaws helped to start the craze!

  9. Sounds delicious, though I guess I’ll never get to try it. Nice to hear it being feted! Hurrah for native fruits!

    I find Yeshiva Girl is free on my Kindle Unlimited subscription. Thank you, I’m so looking forward to reading it!

  10. So glad you got to enjoy your tree’s bounty

  11. Is it a pleasant taste? Sweet? Do you add anything to it?

  12. Whenever I see the name “pawpaw” the old childhood song “Pawpaw Patch” plays in my mind. I never knew they were a real fruit until my late teens. I’ve still never eaten one.

  13. Stephen Brockelman

    I haven’t had (or seen) a pawpaw since I was a little kid in Kansas many decades ago. Your stories brought back a flood of memories. Thanks for the links—I’ll enjoy the extra reading.

  14. Wow, had no idea that pawpaw fruit was such a big deal! That article by the Atlantic was interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  15. “Pickin’ up paw paws put’em in your pocket”…..Not sure if this stands the test of time, but I remember singing it as a kid! Be well, Julie

  16. Very clever word play, hehe

  17. We certainly don’t get paw paws in England. All I knew about them before reading this was they were mentioned in a song that Baloo sang in Jungle Book. Gosh, I’m showing my age now)!

  18. There was a song I heard as a kid, the only line of which I remember is “Way down yonder in the pawpaw patch,” but I never had any idea what a pawpaw was until you started posting about them – which is what brought up the memory of that one line of a long-forgotten song.

  19. I am glad that a previous response pasted the song in the comments. I sing that song to myself each time your write about paw paws. I just realized how funny it is that you have dogs with paws and paw paws. (Very dorky realization. Forgive me.) I guess the trends right now are paw paws and pickleball. I wonder if you could play pickleball with paw paws.(I am on a dreadful streak. LOL)

  20. This is a lovely essay, Rachel. I enjoyed your musings about the meaning of paw paws to you, compared with the growing status of what sounds like “paw paw chic.”

  21. In our house, we automatically like pet owners, but now I’m wondering of paw paws will grow in our changing climate. I’m off to check their favorite growth zones. Thank you for another lovely post.

  22. What a sweet blog about the joy of sharing. I have to admit that I had never heard of pawpaws until your column and I’ve never tasted one. Congrats on the success of your pawpaws. And I’m sure whoever got the biggest one enjoyed it!

  23. These sound fantastic! I’ve never had one. I’ll be on the lookout! Thanks for sharing!

  24. Many a fruit and vegetable has been ruined (flavour- and texture-wise) in the process of making it easier to ship and/or more shelf-stable. Even if they manage to get pawpaws to market, they won’t be the same.


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