Sunday morning we decided to try a new hike. I picked The Riverbend Trail because it 1) was close 2) seemed to follow alongside the river 3) was rumored to have good birding.
Nobody mentioned the pawpaws. This might be because few people realize the goodness that is a ripe pawpaw. Consequently I feel a little guilty letting the secret out. The possums are going to be mad at me. Pawpaws taste like creamy banana mango pudding. They’re indigenous to America and used to be fairly well known as the “prarie banana.” I’ve heard they were set for domestication about the same time that the blueberry, another American fruit, came to the mass market, but the pawpaw was nudged out by the actual banana which was easier to transport.
We had walked about a half mile down the trail when we noticed the path was lined with groves of pawpaw trees. Late August, early September is the season for pawpaws so A and I thought we had a good shot at finding a fruit or two. We spotted a few puny fruits high up but they were so small they were obviously not ripe. I’d shaken down a green pawpaw for the kids a week or two ago on Roosevelt Island and while it was mildly sweet, like a new banana Miriam was not impressed. Reuben liked it. It is pretty exciting to be able to forage tasty food straight out of the woods.
I was ready to give up, since pawpaws are a wild tree and a rough year can mean few fruit. Then I realized I could smell them. The forest was infused with the sweet scent of rich mango, so the fruit had to be around. And it was. We walked about a quarter mile further and pawpaws were everywhere. We could spot them on almost every tree and there was overripe fruit laying along the trail and all over the ground.
The kids had fun helping us spot and shake down a few excellent specimens. Pawpaw fruit is often too high to reach so the best way to get a fruit is to gently shake the narrow trunk. The ripe fruit falls easily. If a fruit won’t fall, it probably isn’t ripe enough anyway. Leave it for those possums.
The rest of the trail was gorgeous. We all walked along slurping up pawpaw and spitting out the seeds. There were a few other folks along the trail but nowhere near the number that come out to Great Falls. No one else seemed to show any interest in the pawpaws.
We also saw countless butterflies along the river.
And R found himself a good stick, so everyone was happy.