The Elusive and Intriguing Paw-Paw

I’m willing to bet not many of you have tried a show-stopping fruit that grows practically right under your nose here in Maryland—if only you know the inside scoop on where and when to find it.
The Paw Paw tree produces luscious, mango-like fruit every fall, and Michael Judd has the inside scoop—he has been on a mission to make sure people become re-acquainted with the Paw Paw.
 The tree —known as the Indian banana, and regionally as the Paw Paw Tunnel in Cumberland, it grows in the mid-Atlantic and rust belt, as far north as Michigan, as far west as eastern Kansas and south to Alabama and northeastern Texas. It is found wild locally especially near river and stream near the Monocacy and Potomac Rivers—
the C & O Canal is a good place to find it.
It’s an amazing and unknown fruit, for a couple of reasons, Michael says. “We culturally have stopped going into the woods,” he says. A century ago, it was a household name and was an important part of local fall diets. But as commercial food production and industrial groceries prevailed, it lost its popularity due to its short fruiting time—depending on the cultivar, September ‘til November, and its short shelf life (once ripe, it must be eaten within a few days).

Many folks have been hearing about the Paw Paw due to a Kickstarter campaign planned to allow Michael to self-publish his book, For the Love of Paw Paws: A Mini Manual for Growing and Caring for Paw Paws-From Seed to Table. He has been working on it for months at writer’s retreats and in his spare time. “I’m self publishing because it gives me the freedom to put in the things I think are important,” he said, and it also builds community around the project; certain levels of support can gain you a food and garden tour, private tasting, or a copy of the book.
Stay tuned for more info on the book, which he hopes could be published by next year, as well as the September 22, 2018 Paw Paw Festival (the third one at the Judd homestead, where visitors hear about pawpaws, permaculture, edible landscaping and even get to tour the family’’s straw bale home). Get your tickets HERE.
Michael is also an ardent permaculturist who designs landscapes, gardens and edible forests for clients. A few other events he has coming up:
  • Fruit Tree Grafting and Care Workshop – Almost all the fruits and nuts we eat these days come from grafted trees. Join us in learning the magic of grafting and basic fruit tree care. During the workshop you will create your own grafted apple tree through hands-on grafting and take your new union home. Also we will cover re-grafting older trees, and grafting tricks that allow grafting ornamental and wild trees to bear tasty fruits. We shall also inadvertently talk about fruit trees in the food forest model. Pruning and general tree health care covered. Sunday March 25th 1-3 pm.
  • Wild About Mushrooms Workshop – Grow your own mushrooms! It is easier to grow mushrooms at home than you think. You can grow delicious and nutritious culinary and medicinal mushrooms in your own garden or home (in apartments, on rooftops and patios, too!) In the workshop we will cover how to inoculate stumps, logs, wood chips, and burlap sacks while improving your garden ecology. In this interactive class you will learn the types of outdoor mushrooms that we can easily grow in our area, the conditions required and the tools you will need. The class will also cover the basics of mushroom science, how fungi functions in nature and how to work with fungi to help restore our local ecologies. The best part is the hands on experience of inoculating a mushroom log that you get to take home! An added bonus this year will be seeing the Judd’s circular straw bale home. Frederick, MD. April 8th 1-3:30pm.
  • Building a Herb Spiral – What do you get when you cross conversations of permaculture, herbs, and hands-on building? An herb spiral: the ultimate raised bed for herbs. Herb spirals are not only beautiful, but practical in design. By using the spiral shape in the garden, you can save time when planting, watering and collecting your favorite herbs. The spiral structure also promotes efficient use of space by staging different microclimates for various herbs to co-exist in. We will be building an herb spiral during the workshop! Sunday May 6th 1-3:30 pm.
** Note all workshops are signed up via the Common Market by calling (301) 663-3416 or registering online via their site


God Saw All That He Had Made, and It Was Good

Twice recently I found myself wondering if doing good for humanity is a one-way game.
The first time, I was discussing with a church colleague my latest “do-gooder” passion, as my family calls  it: soils for the world–food security– in the form of compost,. The well-meaning friend observed, “I’m glad you’re saving the world; as to me, I’m bringing people to the Lord.” I don’t believe he was aiming for one-upsmanship maliciously, but the implication was that his was the calling of choice.noahs ark illustration
The second time, just a day later, I was listening to a budget bureaucrat from the Maryland General Assembly discussing the Governors proposed budget. He highlighted the fsocial service program cuts and compared them to reductions in funding for programs for clean water and environmental projects. “I prefer to keep the money in the programs for people,” he said.
Coming only 24 hours apart, naturally I had to stop a  moment and consider that more than 50% of my work during my lifetime  has been on environmental projects. Yet I never considered these less important than the people projects on which I had participated (poverty, immigration, literacy). Could I have had my focus in the wrong place?
To shine light on these deep-hearted questions, I turned to my what I learned in catechism class all those years, which sent me to Genesis, and the creation of the world.
In Genesis 1: 1-23, the world, in all its creatures and features, is a holistic one. God created a special interdependence and in the words of the Book, formed humans to “dominate” this ecology. While some definitions of the medieval French word might lead you to think it means to “outlast”, the simple fact of the matter is, by ignoring the stability of the other features of our world (clean water, climate change) it dooms not only the rest of creation, but ultimately, mankind itself.
I thank my human colleagues who focus on people;  I am returning to my work on the ecology of the God’s system as one of the dominant creatures he made to maintain the delicate balance

A Spoonful of Soil (Regenerative Agriculture)

Ron Holter and Lisa Orr believe a teaspoon of soil can make a big difference.
That is, when it is loaded with the right microbes: it can be the difference between wallet-breaking grain purchases and feeding animals from the grass growing in rich soil.

 Lisa Orr and Ron Holter, speakers Feb. 21 at Green Drinks
Lisa told the audience at the February Frederick Green Drinks that microbes are in the 10K range  in a teaspoon of healthy soil … and her presentation partner, Middletown farmer Ron Holter, said seeing the sun hit bare soil is the opposite of a hospitable environment for these microbes. “We’ve been taught that monoculture is the thing, and its not,” said Holter, whose farm follows regenerative practices rapidly gaining recognition worldwide.
The holistic grazing method is promoted internationally by Rhodesian farmer Allan Savory, at a Colorado facility. There, they train and demonstrate grazing practices that match the needs of the soil and animals by moving the animals in “mobs”  throughout the land. The animals’ trampling activities provide the aeration, nutrients and organic matter needed in the soil—which also traps carbon that otherwise would become greenhouse gas.
In Savory’s home country of Africa, where the soil is extremely brittle and arid, “cattle mobs” will sometimes not graze the same area for a year; Holter said his Middletown cows are rotated in tight groups every 28-45 days. His farm changed methods 21 years ago, and he has saved large amounts of money on grain (the animals are now grass-fed); their land is drought-resistant; between the diversity that keeps it in check and the hungry cows that consume all the Johnsongrass, this bane of conventional farms is under control. Veterinary bills are lower because his livestock do not spend all their time in barns on hard surfaces; and the workload is lighter for his farm family.
Regenerative agriculture is growing in adoption in the national agricultural world as its benefits become evident. For more information about regenerative methods, which include nitrogen-fixing cover crops; no-till farming; biochar and chemical free farming, and their ability to restore soil carbon, go to
Other resources include: