Tuesday, June 7
I can remember sitting on the front porch in the heat of a Carolina summer evening and listening to my Grandma tell tales of how it was to grow up in the mountains and valleys of the southern Appalachians. One of my favorite subjects to hear her speak of was the foods that they ate. Many of the everyday foods of the time were the kind of things that most of us today simply step on, like plantains, or spray with weed killer, like dandelions. One fruit that she always spoke of with a special kind of delight was the paw paw.
The paw paw, or asminia, is a genus of shrubs or small trees that generally grow in clusters in well drained fertile bottom land and hilly upland habitats. The paw paw usually grows from 6 to 20 feet tall with alternate oval leaves of an emerald green color. Some northern varieties of paw paw are deciduous, but the southern varieties are usually evergreen. The plant produces large clusters of flowers that vary in color from white to purple to red-brown. The fruit is a large edible berry which contains numerous seeds. It is green when unripe and matures to yellow or brown with a flavor reminiscent of both banana and mango.
The paw paw is one of the many obscure and little known plants that are native to the US, but are rapidly being rediscovered by discerning gardeners and landscapers who have tired of exotic flowers and species that can become invasive if not carefully cultivated.