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.
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.
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.
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 -https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2022/09/19/move-over-acai-its-the-pawpaws-time
Why is the most American fruit so hard to buy? https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2022/10/pawpaw-fruit-taste-history/671646/
The Promise of Pawpaw – https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/19/dining/pawpaw-climate-change.html
The Mad Scientist of Pawpaws – https://gardenandgun.com/feature/the-mad-scientist-of-pawpaws/
Queen of the Pawpaws – https://www.ourstate.com/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?