Picking pawpaws is not a job for the faint hearted. Apart from the sheer physical effort involved, there’s the risk of swollen itchy arms from coming into contact with the fruit’s potent sap, and even temporary blindness if the sap gets into your eyes.
“They’re very difficult because the trees are so tall,” says Georgia Powell, who grows organic pawpaws on the steep slopes of her family’s Burringbar farm.
“You have to use a picking pole every time you pick them, so it’s really physical. And it can be painful because the sap, it’s kind of like mango sap. You come back in from picking and you get a little bit on your arm and your arm will swell up, you get a little bit in your eye you go blind for a few hours. And unfortunately because you use a picking pole, you’re always looking up and you get sap in your eyes all the time.”
The effort is worth it, however, according to Georgia, who loves the taste of a ripe pawpaw on a hot summer day.
“They’re really sweet here. Because of where we are, the slopes are really hot and the paw paw (which are a tropical fruit) grow really well.”
“If I forget to take a water bottle with me and I’m really thirsty, I always think the nicest ones are the tiny little ones that you pick off the tree ripe…they’re the sweetest and they’re very refreshing.”
There are red and yellow pawpaw varieties on the farm, but because they cross-pollinate; Georgia says it’s become difficult to tell which is which until they’re opened. However she says a good yellow is equally as sweet as the popular red.
The pawpaws are usually picked green and then naturally ripened before they are taken to her stall, Mt Chowan Organics, at the Mullumbimby Farmers Market. She tells her customers to choose fruit that has a blush of yellow and then leave it for a few days until it becomes slightly soft to the touch.
Once the fruit is ripe, it tastes best chilled with a squeeze of lemon or lime.
• Find Mt Chowan Organics at the Mullumbimby Farmers Market every Friday.
PAWPAW BREAKFAST BOWL
For a healthy start to the day, try a pawpaw breakfast bowl. Chill a pawpaw, cut in half, scoop out the seeds and fill with yoghurt muesli, and fresh fruit like blueberries, bananas and strawberries.