Sunday October 2, 2011

The Autumn Days Are Coming

Look. I know October has arrived and I should post something really exciting about apples or pumpkins or squash or whatever, but I can’t. Not yet. Not when I have the last of Kentucky’s wild pawpaws to savor.

Often they’re described as ugly and misshapen, but I find their mottled skin and hourglass figure kinda charming. I wouldn’t, you know, compose poetry in their honor or anything. But someone might.

Like James Buchanan Elmore, for example. In his splendidly titled book Love among the mistletoe he wrote, “When the autumn days are coming, 
And it’s getting cool o’ nights, Then I love to take a ramble, 
When the pawpaws are ripe.”

nearly ripe paw-paws

I feel the same way, Jimmy.

Pawpaws come on in late summer, but I always think of them as a harbinger of fall. In September, when Kentucky’s summer berries had run their course and with my favorite cooking apples from Reed Valley not quite ready, I could count on pawpaw desserts to round out my menus.

Every week this September, I received a crate of pawpaws from a guy named Roland. He’d bring them to the restaurant himself when time allowed or otherwise send ‘em piggybacked on orders from a neighboring farm. He invited me and Victor to come photograph his pawpaw plantation (as he calls the woods where he forages) but we never quite found the time to take a ramble.

Even so, Victor managed to capture a few shots from my last batch of pawpaws.

perfectly ripe, black skinned paw paw

Last week, I ran them as a panna cotta (because, really, how much fun is it to say, “I’ll have the pawpaw panna cotta, please”?), but I this week I’ve moved on to ice cream. The flavor of pawpaws, like bananas, seem to increase exponentially as they overripen. Black skinned pawpaws make an especially killer ice cream (a shot of Kentucky rye whiskey mixed into the base doesn’t hurt either).

I rarely have a chance to blog about desserts currently on the menu, but this week things just worked out nicely. Pawpaw Rye ice cream with jasmine syrup and brown sugar cornmeal shortbread will run through the end of the week, barring a dessert apocalypse.

pawpaw seeds

If you can still get a hold of pawpaws in your neck o’ the woods, or if you’ve cleverly stored away some pulp in the freezer, make up a batch for yourself.

Pawpaw ice cream with jasmine syrup
Brown sugar cornmeal shortbread

posted byStellaand filed under:  Farms  Fruit  Ice Cream  Victor Sizemore

17 comments and counting

Oct 02, 2011 ·  8:43 PM

Great post, of course, and Victor, wonderful photos!!

 · Sarah Jane ·

Oct 03, 2011 · 12:07 AM

I wonder who invented the name ‘pawpaw’… or maybe they invented themselves? You’re right, I’d love to say, “I’d like a pawpaw panna cotta, please”…

 · Sumaiyyah ·

Oct 03, 2011 · 11:42 AM

@Sarah, thanks dear!

@Sumaiyyah, I’ve heard that they were named after the papaya, because of their similarities. Don’t know that this is true or not, perhaps they did name themselves.


Oct 03, 2011 ·  6:09 PM

I have lived in the South my whole life and I have never heard of a pawpaw – except as a term used to address your grandfather. Interesting! I live in Mississippi, so maybe you can only get them in Kentucky?

 · Lisa @ The Cooking Bride ·

Oct 03, 2011 ·  6:38 PM

I’ve never heard of pawpaws before. The seeds look similar to the ones found in persimmons.

 · Jessica ·

Oct 03, 2011 ·  8:29 PM

I had heard of pawpaws but never knew they were edible. They sound quite interesting.

 · Decor Girl ·

Oct 04, 2011 · 12:05 AM

wow, i have never heard nor seen this fruit in my life! they are shaped like gourds? looks like the texture consistency of a mangosteen… paw paws icecream… YUM

 · baobabs ·

Oct 04, 2011 · 11:23 PM

I’ve never heard of them! Should I be ashamed?

 · Mallowsota · 

Oct 05, 2011 ·  9:30 AM

Oooh, I wish I could find some of these! I’d heard of them once or twice but I’ve never seen them, not even out in California where it seems like they have everything. Speaking of which…I know you were out in LA recently (as was I), did you get to any farmers markets? And if you did, did you try a jujube (sp?)? And if you did…what’d you think? I was underwhelmed but the one I tried might have been underripe. Thoughts?

 · The Hungry Traveler ·

Oct 06, 2011 · 10:07 AM

@Lisa, it really is surprising how many southerners don’t know about the pawpaw, when they are our native fruit! Their season is over now in the South, but next year ask around at your farmers markets or “locavore” type restaurants. They are found in some parts of Mississippi. You can see a map of their growing region here.

@Jessica, I think their seeds are so pretty, little shiny bits of onyx. Apparently you can sprout them and try to grow a pawpaw, if you have a green thumb…

@Decor Girl, I’m not a huge fan of raw pawpaws (although many people are! I just don’t like super soft fruit; I have trouble with raw bananas, haha.) But if you ever get a hold of them, you should try them out! Either raw or in a custard or something. They have a really intriguing, complex flavor.

@baobabs, they seem to be increasing in popularity. I bet you’ll hear even more about them next year, I know Kentucky is certainly making a push to get them into more markets.

@Mallowsota, sweet pea, their growing region is so far out of your territory, it’s no surprise. But clearly, you must visit KY in late August or September so I can make sure you can taste them too.

@The Hungry Traveler, apparently they are averse to shipping and have a limited growing region here in the south. I guess California can’t have everything. Yes, I indeed did go to a market, the Hollywood Farmers Market. It’s my favorite, just bursting with so much obscurity!! Although I missed out on jujubes! I recently saw an article on the HFM’s jujubes and was kicking myself. I have no idea how I missed ‘em!


Oct 08, 2011 ·  2:20 PM

Wonderful article! It sure brought back fond memories. Growing up in Smithland, KY we used to sing:

Where, oh where, oh where is Stella?
Where, oh where, oh where is Stella?
Where, oh where, of where is Stella?
Way down yonder in the paw-paw patch.

Picking up paw-paws; put ‘em in a basket.
Picking up paw-paws; put ‘em in a basket.
Picking up paw-paws;put ‘em in a basket.
Way down yonder in the paw-paw patch.

 · shuckydurn · 

Oct 19, 2011 ·  8:59 PM

awesome blog!

 · COSMICaroline ·

Oct 21, 2011 · 10:32 AM

@shuckydurn, hahaha, that’s awesome. Yes!!!

@COSMICaroline, thanks so much! Glad you stopped by.


Nov 20, 2011 ·  8:51 AM

I, too, can join the bunch that have never heard of Paw Paws. Born and raised in Louisiana, we have lived in the N., E., MidW, and now back So (TX) and never heard of them! How fun is paw paw panna cotta!!

 · Snippets of Thyme ·

Nov 20, 2011 ·  5:17 PM

@Snippets of Thyme, glad to surprise you! Despite it’s prevalence in the wild, its popularity in its growing region is highly localized. I know many Kentuckian’s who’ve never heard of it, much less tried it. The only pawpaw they know is Papa John’s, lol. But in certain communities, it’s so common as to be commonplace. Just depends where you land, I suppose. Hope you can try some next year, be sure to check your farmer’s markets!


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