Ray brought this pawpaw to rehearsal the other day. He grew it in his backyard. In Westchester County, not much more than an hour north of NYC! It seems so odd, this seemingly-tropical fruit growing up here in this climate. He planted a couple of trees a few years ago, and each year around this time he announces “there’s paw paws on the trees” with just the barest mumble, almost under his breath, as if he was saying “I’m gonna have tacos for lunch”, or something equally mundane. It always sounded so exotic, like something that should grow in the deep South – Alabama or Georgia, or somewhere like that where the air is hot and thick and everything moves a little bit slower than here. But I’d yet to taste one, or even see one, until now.
NPR did a story on paw paws last year, with a video included, that explains a bit about this forgotten fruit. They were apparently a favorite of Thomas Jefferson, and during their expedition of 1806, Lewis & Clark foraged for them and ate them for sustenance when their food rations ran low.
Its exterior looks like a mango, and the inside reminds me of a cherimoya with its big, shiny, black seeds. When I was in fifth grade, my family spent half a year in Spain and in the backyard of the house we rented was a cherimoya tree. I grew to love the delicate, perfumed flavor of the pale, custardy flesh. As well as the exterior of the fruit, with its depressions that looked like someone had pressed thumbprints into the dark green, reptilian-looking skin. They look prehistoric, as if they wouldn’t be out of place in the dinosaur age. The pawpaw has a similar taste. Since we are apt to describe taste in a comparative way (think: ‘berry-like’, ‘citrusy’, ‘oaky’ or ‘nutty’), I’ll say that the pawpaw tasted like a mash-up of mango/pineapple/banana. Sort of. I need another taste in order to better assess the taste. Perhaps next year. We split this one six ways, one piece for each member of the band before rehearsal started.
Rehearsal? One of the things I’ve been up to lately is being a part of this project, called Go Love. I don’t have a musical background, yet I’ve been playing in this band with five other (very real) musicians/singers/songwriters. We’ve been playing gigs, I play the typewriter. It’s been a great time.