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Easy to be green: The pawpaw fruit

By Quentin Stocum

There is an old folk song that begins, “Where, oh where is pretty little Susie?” Well, she is found way down yonder in the pawpaw patch filling her pockets with pawpaws. Pawpaws? What are they and why is she intent on filling her pockets?

Pawpaw is a native fruit, found through the Appalachian regions of the country. Unfortunately the fruit does not lend itself for commercial sale in supermarkets since, unlike an apple or other fruits; it does not have a long shelf life. It is a fruit that the sooner it is eaten, the better.

I am fortunate to finally have experienced the taste of the pappaw. My trees finally bore fruit this year and the taste is unlike any other fruit. The texture is similar to custard and the taste, well the taste is hard to describe. I have read that not only can it be eaten raw, but can be made into an actual custard and baked. Now I know why little Susie was filling her pockets.

Through the years I have written about the use of pesticides to the point that I feel like I’m afraid that you will think, not again. But, once again there is a reason why I bring up this topic. Back in the 1980s the introduction of the pesticide, neonicotinoid or neonics, was said to be a safe alternative to the use of other insecticides that were sprayed on crops. Neonic is a systematic, which means that the insecticide is taken into the plant by the roots to the leaves and flowers. We know what affect this has had on pollinators.

It now turns out that this pesticide is found in the seeds of plants. Seeds are a food source for birds, yes birds are found to suffer from the effects of neonics. A study published by National Geographic has found that a songbird that eats only one or two seeds containing neonics can suffer weight loss, which when migrating, hinders and delays their journey south.

Are you fascinated with creepy crawling insects? Want to know more about them? Well, after a six year hiatus, you now have a chance to visit the Frost Entomological Museum located on the Penn State campus.

Currently only “dead” specimens are available for viewing, but plans are in the making for live specimens. One goal is to have a honey bee observation hive available for viewing in the spring of 2020. Just google Frost Entomological Museum for more information.

There has been a huge push to buy native plants, of which I am a strong advocate.

Native plants, native insects, native birds, they are a natural. I have nothing against buying and planting nonnatives but I always research a plant before I buy. I check to see if it is on any state’s invasive list. If it is not a brute, I may consider it. Will it add color to my gardens that I can’t find in a native and hopefully it is a plant that will help provide food for pollinators?

Word of caution, do not rely on box stores and even garden centers to carry noninvasive or plants that are safe. I have seen in box stores and even well-known garden centers, the sale of “bad” plants. If you want to know if a plant is a good plant, send me an email and I’ll check my resources.

I think I can place this plant alongside the dandelion as one of the least favorite plant in one’s yard. That is if you are one of those lawn purists that feels a lawn should only have grass. Since I’m not one of the purists, the following plant does grow in my yard and is for the most part welcome.

Broadleaf plantains, you know the plant that sends up a long stem with a non-descript flower along the stem, is a native of Eastern Europe and Eurasia. Plus you have the laced leafed plantains that hold its flower head on top of a long stem. This plant also originates from the same area as the broad leaf.

Plantains were a very important plant in years past. The young leaves are edible and rich in important vitamins and minerals. It has many medicinal uses that some are still used today. It is added to preparations used to help smokers quit the habit. Yes this so called nuisance weed has an impressive history.

One very important factor about this nonnative plant is that it is a host plant for many native butterflies. The Common Buckeye, Painted Lady and Crescents all use the plant as a host. You know I would rather see butterflies than a lawn that has nothing but grass, usually Kentucky bluegrass. Actually what we have in most of our lawns is from an invasive nonnative plant that originated in Europe.

For years I have driven through farm lands and noticed the large white containers in the fields, not knowing anything about them, except they held hay. This is a practice called baleage.

Baleage is when you wrap forage that is high moisture in plastic. This gives the farmers a better winter food for their animals. Plus this practice saves the farmer time as it shortens the time that the farmer needs for the hay to dry. With our current weather patterns, there has been times when it was difficult to get some good drying days.

I have been known to swear a blue streak and if were allowed I would do it now and in written form. We all know that pesticides are very harmful to pollinators and birds. We are aware that certain pesticides, when used correctly, may be needed. But, when the current administration in Washington ignores all scientific evidence that the pesticide, chlorpyrifos, has been proven to cause brain damage in children and has ignored against all recommendations for its nonuse, has allowed this poison to be used, makes me want to use profane language. Take time and explore the following site, ewg.org.

We are all familiar with the term “snowbird.” For us, the term means you hate the cold snowy winters so you escape south to warmer climates. I have never driven to the southern states, so I am not aware how long it takes to drive straight through with no stops, not even a pee stop.

There is a Great Blue Heron called Harper who made the trip from Saint John, New Brunswick to Nocatee, Florida in 38.6 hours. She did this nonstop. That is amazing.

I am throwing this out and hopefully someone will explore this program. It is called Cycling Without Age. The website link is cyclingwithoutage.org. I know I would love to explore parts of the Pine Creek Rail to Trails, but physical limits prevent me from doing so. This program uses a rickshaw which allows individual to ride, giving them the opportunity to enjoy nature.

Last month I wrote that I wrapped green tomatoes in newspaper and allowed them to ripen. We got many sandwiches out of the four and they were delicious. It was sad when I took the last bite of my club sandwich. It will be a long time until my taste buds can experience the tangy tomato again.

Enjoy the upcoming season, whether you celebrate the religious or the secular aspects of the season, may the time be spent with family and friends. I will say to all “Happy Holidays,” which covers everyone.

Remember, it is easy to be green. Happy Gardening!

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Quentin Stocum, “just your common ordinary gardener,” can be reached at qstocum@gmail.com.

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