The Great Pawpaw Hunt 2010

In honor of Charlotte Hilton Green, I’m outside of Raleigh–a lie. OK, other business brings me to Chapel Hill, which I must admit hasn’t taken long to grow on me. For those of you unacquainted with the area, Chapel Hill’s neighbor, Carrboro, is hip as hell. I’ll post pictures from the uber-cool Weaver Street Market in a few days.

Chapel Hill itself is a grand little college town, proud of its farmers and brimming with localism. The people here care about their trees and–apparently–their deer. Nary a garden is unprotected, and I ran by a muscular buck on Sunday that never flinched.

Between engagements I got the chance to steal off (albeit on a witheringly hot day) to the North Carolina Botanical Garden, which I highly recommend for its platinum-level LEED-certified Education Center and astounding collection of pitcher plants. There, I had my first encounter with a pawpaw tree. Now, as I see it, any farmer has got to be a lover of nature, of fauna and flora of all shapes, sizes and dispositions. I’ve been fascinated by pawpaws ever since I heard about the scores of them growing over the shelves of Arkansas’ Boston Mountains, their fruits tasting a little like bananas, their flowers pollinated by flies.

Well, I wasn’t disappointed. As the pictures suggest, it’s a such an alien and lewd specimen. And, yes, there’s the mounting odor of banana. I want to eat one. If I do nothing else in 2010, I will, without a doubt, take a bite from a pawpaw fruit. That is my mission as I stand here today.

Other pictures from the gardens, some of which carefully mimic North Carolina’s vastly disparate ecosystems, have been uploaded to the Farmer South Flickr album. I like Hercule’s club and the incredibly confused Venus Flytrap, personally.

How about you? Anything to share on pawpaws? I hear the taste described in a hundred different ways, and I know of a farmer near Danielsville, Georgia who’s working on pawpaw-mango cultivars. I’m thinking, yum.



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