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