Monday, September 30, 2013


It's been a while now since I met a very nice gentleman at the Depot in Marshall who, in a roundabout way, first introduced me to what has become a favorite wild food of mine. There was a night, back when I lived in the infamous garage apartment on Hickory Flats (The "G.A."), when I sat in my neighbor's Kia, slapped on a little red lipstick with her, and we rode over to the Depot for a memorable night of dancing, cakewalking and people watching. Oh the people watching that could be done at the Depot then...They just don't make em like they used to; I'll leave it at that. Anyways, after the Depot we headed back to her house where I propmtly got drunk on her husband's homemade wine, and we sat in the kitchen telling stories and laughing and carrying on. My mind is just a wee bit fuzzy from that night (clear throat awkwardly), but I think that was the night that particular neighbor friend sent me home with an Ingles bag of paw paws given to her by her friend at the Depot. (Disclaimer: it is possible that I am getting two different nights confused here, possibly even from different years.)

Regardless of the nitty gritty details of the timing of which Depot night what happened, one of those nights back then I experienced my first paw paw ever. And it came from the trees of a very nice gentleman from the Depot, who has sinced moved from those trees, but the trees remain. And year after sweet year, I drive over to those trees in mid to late September and let the warmth of the angled autumnal sun remind me of all that is simple and precious about communing with a place in real time. A year passes. Time for another visit. The yard with the paw paw trees lies in front of an old farm house. No human inhabits this place anymore, and the weeds are taller than me in places. There is an old rose surviving next to the house, its aroma sweet and sad and emitting memories that I have no place in, but long for nonetheless.

I have not read Michael Pollan's book, The Botany of Desire, but I read the introduction. This year when I was reaping the harvest of the almost forgotten aforementioned paw paw trees, I couldn't help but think these trees really are having their way with me. I collect their fruits without fail each fall, and then I distribute those fruits far and wide, aided by my petroleum fueled modes of transportation and my generous nature. I am a seed spreading machine for those two trees- making sure portions of the bounty end up in various counties all over these mountains. And each recipient of the harvest in turn consumes the sweet alluring flesh and then does exactly what the trees want it to do- deposits the seeds in new fresh soil, thus enhancing the gene pool of the range of whatever nighttime fly or beetle paw paw pollinator might inhabit this particular place. I think I am looting some mad paw paw booty for myself and my people, but what I am really doing is spreading the seed of this strain of Asimina tribola to places much farther than the tree possibly ever dreamed of. Badass, Michael Pollan. Badass.

Old house with paw paw trees to the left
This time of year, you will find me busy trying to find all sorts of ways to enjoy North America's largest native fruit. Blended with whole milk to make a paw paw smoothie (my favorite), eaten plain as a snack with some wild nuts such as chestnuts, combined with other fruit and liquor to form a paw paw colada (watch out) or just eaten straight up plain as is for breakfast. Countertops, dashboards and refrigerator shelves are all lined with paw paws in varying degrees of ripeness. And also, you will find me geeking out on reading and quoting things that other paw paw aficionados have written about this bodacious Appalachian berry. Check these for some most interesting info!:
Turns out, paw paws are quite nutritious. Apparently they are quite old too- the second link talks about 50 million year old paw paw fossils!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

This year's May pole in September

Standing vigil:
Courtships of bunting and turkey
Fledgling of pileated woodpeckers
Sipping of honeysuckle
Flooding of terrain, Thor's handprint
Foraging of deer and honeybees
Unfolding of angelica
Blossoming of lobelia