Monday, September 30, 2013

Paw Paws Part 2: Smoothie Adventure

The day had finally arrived to use our freshly harvested paw paws in a delicious smoothie.  We could hardly wait to taste them.  You can see from the dozen or so paw paws we harvested that not all were ripe.  The first thing we did was separate the ripe from the unripe.  I placed the unripe on the window sill to sit for a few days and soften.  The ripe were tender and fragrant, and ready to use.

We peeled off the skins and separated the seeds from the flesh.  The seeds were about the size of a penny.
Peeling them was tricky.  The fruit was small and the flesh slippery, making them hard to hold.  And honestly, the ratio of flesh to seed was small, making it hard to get a decent amount of fruit.  However, we persevered slicing up all of the "ripe" ones and collected what we could for smoothie making.
At one point while cutting up the paw paws, I licked my fingers and tasted the intense tropical mango flavor.  Immediately following the sweetness was a very bitter after-taste.  It surprised me.  I had visions of collecting paw paws year after year, enjoying all kinds of sweet goodies made from them.  Puzzled, I Googled it, and sure enough, others had experienced the bitter taste also. 

Still, this was not going to deter my enjoyment of our paw paws, a bounty from nature itself!  To remedy the bitter taste, we added banana and organic frozen raspberry to the smoothie.  There.

I took one sip.  No!  It couldn't be.  It tasted of nothing but bitterness!  Sadly, I could not drink my smoothie-- it was just too bitter.  After dreaming of paw paws for two years, my hopes were dashed.   I felt disappointed the whole night!

Greg on the other hand, choked down his smoothie.  And for my husband, who normally has a stomach made of steel, his story ended badly:  he was sick for the rest of the night.  Very sick.

We have since learned that the paw paws were likely not ripe enough and could have been edible had we waited a few days.  I'm also a believer in trying small amounts of nature for the first time (I've learned the hard way).

Needless to say, after the build up and disappointment, I'm not sure I have the heart to try them again.  As for Greg, he says he is willing to try them again...really!?

Happy Trails,
--Two Peas

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Paw Paw Foraging

You may recall that last year Greg and I went looking for paw paws only to find none. Also recall that we have been eagerly waiting to harvest some since the fall of 2011 when we first discovered them!  Recently, after another year of waiting, our day to forage paw paws had arrived.  So, with much anticipation we headed out once again in search of the elusive paw paw.
We trekked to a local trail on the Potomac River where paw paw trees are indigenous and plentiful, and hiked for a long time before spotting any.
Then we spotted one.
And as always after spotting one, we started seeing lots of them (just like after buying a new car, when you start to notice dozens of your car on the road). 

Just what are these paw paws?  The Common Paw Paw (Asimina triloba) is native to the Eastern, Southern and Midwestern United States and had been a staple of the Native American and the Colonial diet.  The fruit is shaped like an oblong egg, with skin similar to a pear.  They hang in bunches beneath branches of large ovate leaves (much like a tobacco plant leaf), forming a lovely, tropical-like canopy.  The trunk has a smooth gray bark.
The ripe fruit flesh is soft, fragrant and tastes like a cross between a banana and mango-- very sweet.  Large brown Junior Mint look-alike seeds are nestled inside the yellow, custard-like flesh.
We established a pattern for harvesting these babies:  we gently vigorously shook the trunks of the tree, letting loose the ripest of fruit from the branches.  We then scooped them up off the ground and into our backpack.  It was a successful system, though we did have to explain ourselves a couple of times to passersby!
After collecting a dozen or so, we headed home to make smoothies.  You can read about that adventure in the next post!
For now, Happy Trails,
--Two Peas

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Good, The Bag and The Ugly -- a Lesson in Bag Worms

We saw one last winter on our blue spruce and removed it.  Then a couple of weeks ago, we noticed about a hundred of them hanging from branches all over the tree.   What are they?   Bag worms.

The bag worms really is the pupa stage in the life cycle of the Psychidae or case moth.  The caterpillars create a silk case using the foliage of the host tree and pupate inside the case.  The adult male emerges in seven days as a furry, gray moth with clear wings, but the female bunkers down for the winter, living in the bag from late August through early spring of the next year.  Inside she lays between 300 and 1000 eggs!

This is the time of year to look for these "bags" on your trees.  The moths will set up housekeeping using a variety of trees, constructing their bags from the leaves of that tree.  So, investigate your trees now, looking for leaf-covered, hanging cocoons.  If you do see any, they can easily be removed by plucking them off.  Better to do it now than wait for spring like we did this year.... or you may end up with hundreds of bags next September!

We have so many bags on the blue spruce in front of our house that we need to make a decision whether to remove each one and burn them, or remove the whole tree and burn it.

While we value a good blue spruce tree for its beauty, we would not hesitate to destroy this one.  Why?  Its size (too big), location (right next to front steps) and its odd-shape (top plucked off --possibly used as a Christmas tree by the previous owner).  In addition, the defoliation from this infestation and past infestations have made this tree bare in many places.  In sum, the tree is ugly.

Want to weigh in?  Is it worth removing about 100 bag worm bags and trying to save the tree? 
Have you any experience with bag worms you can share?
Happy Trails,
--Two Peas

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Gut and Its Link to the Brain

Just a quick note today!

Many of you have been hearing me preach this for years now, that there is a definite link between the gut and its health and so many health issues, including psychological illnesses such as autism, anxiety, depression and even schizophrenia. 

Thankfully now that information is receiving some press from the mainstream media.  I hope you enjoy this article, as it describes how the gut is foundation of bodily and mental health.

Link to the article:

ABC News Story: Gut and Anxiety

I'll have plenty more good info on the gut and how to keep it healthy in the coming posts.

Happy Trails,
--Two Peas