Paw Paw Harvest

So the weather finally broke, and the time came to harvest the paw paws. I’ve been checking on them periodically, but it’s been cool this year and they weren’t ripe yet. When they were predicting Joaquin would hit last weekend, I almost panicked and harvested them early with Squirrel, Danny and Reggie. Yet in the end, sense prevailed, and we left them on the trees.

Things were hardly dry, even with days of no rain. We went out to the patch with our ATVs and most of the kids. We had ladders, plastic tubs, sickles and shears. Most of the women-folk were terrified by the kids climbing around the wet trees and up ladders with sharp objects in their hands, but they’ll be grateful the kids know what to do if there is every a massive societal collapse and the kids can run out and fetch paw paws. Plus nothing happened.

So let me wax philosophical on the virtues of Asimina Triloba, the common paw paw. This is a native fruit of North America, basically a fat green banana. It has a sweet, yet puckery taste that makes it hard to eat a lot of at once. You don’t see it in stores because it goes bad quickly. In short, the paw paw is a family or local experience, although you can juice it, ferment it, or freeze it.

We started out uncharacteristically early on Saturday, and had the patch cleared by late afternoon. Many hands make for light work. Squirrel had brought a portable grill, and we stopped at lunch time for bratwurst and coleslaw. We were all exhausted, but wanted to keep moving.

Back at the compound, we broke off into groups. Some went to work with the fruit press and a big rented commercial grade pasteurizer, jarring the juice. Some were scooping out the fruit with spoons, and setting it aside in the freezers. The kitchen was a mess, and the younger kids were spitting seeds off the porch or surreptitiously planting them alongside the house to grow their own paw paw patch.

By about 10 o’clock, the ex-wives and friends were pulling their kids away from the home theater to go home and off to bed. Silence settled on the house, and the world seemed to gently ebb back and forth as I lay in bed, my muscles starting to uncoil after a long shower.

Sunday we started back up before noon. There was more scooping of the paw paw flesh, this time to can as preserves. Jam, butter, and chutney. Nothing like homemade paw paw jam on toast while staring out the window on a snowy January morning. Squirrel had brought his home-brew materials, and several of us started up a batch of paw paw hooch. He had a fresh bucket, since I made him throw out the one he used for his datura brew, and the rest was steel or glass, and uncontaminated.

Someone made up a big mess of lasagna and spaghetti, and brought loaves of real baguettes. Folks were already going back and forth to the cellar, so they brought up pickled olives and green tomatoes we had set aside before. We all had this well-deserved dinner around 7, and at about 8 folks started drifting off with their cans and jars and bags of frozen paw paw.

This weekend wasn’t at all typical of what they usually are around here, but then we do have these massive working get-togethers often enough. There’s nothing like a bunch of friends and family celebrating a harvest to bring them close together. This is something that mankind has done since the beginning of time. The event taps back into the deepest recesses of instinct.

As I lay in bed, enjoying the last Dunhill of the day, I pondered the weekend’s events and thought fondly on my life of restless wandering and overseas adventures. It was hard moving here and settling down, but right here and right now, I know I made the right choice and am in the right place in life. Being part of a family again makes me feel somehow complete.



p.s. Yeah, I know this story isn’t what you may have expected. But this is my blog. And anyway, no doubt more typical adventures will crop up for me to document and share with you. It’s how the story goes.


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