Given Paws

Folks, I am hopping off the pawpaw bandwagon.

For years, I’ve scoured the woods nearby for the elusive fruit of Asimina triloba. And once I learned how and where to find them, every late summer and early fall I’ve returned to glean pawpaws from the forest floor.

Many foragers never have the opportunity to discover this delicate prize. How could I not take advantage of my luck? Of course, I had to harvest them (leaving plenty for wildlife, of course) and find ways to use them.

Pawpaw Haul 2022
Pawpaw Haul 2022

…do you see the mistake I made there? I myself only realized the errors of my ways recently.

See, pawpaws don’t fit in my food habits. I don’t eat a lot of fruit or sweets. In fact, I primarily eat paleo/primal-ish/low-carb. I have struggled to locate recipes—or even invent them—that use pawpaws in a way that works for me. And my family. My husband prefers them raw, straight from the tree (or the ground beneath the tree as the case may be). Moreover, he doesn’t care for almond or coconut flour in my paleo confections. And the kids, well, they just don’t care for pawpaws at all.

In other words, I spent hours peeling and pulping the pawpaws to bake an amazing pawpaw upside-down cake using a recipe of my own creation. I had a few slices, after which the cake sat in the fridge for days, neglected by everyone except when they need to move it out of the way to reach something behind it.

Granted, it wasn’t the prettiest thing I’d ever baked…

Paleo Pawpaw Upside Down Cake
Paleo Pawpaw Upside Down Cake

…but the flavor was amazing. Worth the carbs? Maybe.

Unfortunately, my second (and last) slice made me so sick.

I’ve encountered this before, with a pawpaw spice cake. I didn’t know if my issues were due to the pawpaw or intolerance to the wheat flour. Then a few months later, I enjoyed pawpaw quick bread with no issues at all. Why would the upside-down cake be any different? I have no idea, but my digestive tract wanted nothing to do with it.

I have browsed around the internet and found nothing conclusive about why some people get sick when eating pawpaws while others are fine, nor why one person would get sick intermittently. The skin and the seeds can definitely cause digestive distress, so care is needed while processing. And some websites suggest cooking makes it worse. But does it matter if the fruit is more or less ripe when being processed? Did I just miss some of the skin this time? Do other ingredients exacerbate the issue? This time I know it wasn’t wheat flour, because the recipe used almond flour.

Point is, I realize that pawpaws are the sweetheart of the foraging community. But after this last experience, “because I can” is no longer a worthy justification to harvest and (attempt to) cook with them. For me. I’d rather focus my attention and cooking efforts on keeping my family nourished and fed with things we actually eat, rather than once-a-year curiosities.

… well, maybe after I check out this No Bake Pawpaw Cheesecake

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