Searching for Paw Paw Patches
Inland on the Island
Of Rarotonga, Cook Islands
It is a long bumpy ride on our little rented motor scooter down to the south of Raratonga in the Cook Islands taking every little road we could find up the mountain sides around the bends and back down. The farms are little but quite lush and most of the houses unpretentious–saw a couple of pigs running free and many many free range chickens and myna birds but it is mostly greenery flowers and fruits. Only saw one fence the whole trip and it was a rusty loose barbwire in a hedge.
I am looking for a paw paw patch. I have been searching for paw paw patches since Mrs. Forester taught us that song about picking’ up paw-paw, put ’em in your basket way down yonder in the paw paw patch” at North Park Elementary School in Abilene.
Fruits and vegetables abound but I have trouble identifying many of the crops on the inland ‘plantations’ but I see cabbages, leaf lettuce, tomatoes, taro, onions, watermelons, bananas and passion fruits that could be gathered. I was hoping to find a farmer to ask about paw-paw patches but the only ones I saw this day were sittin’ on the porch drinking beer.
Several days later we again toured the back roads, or inside road, passed many more fields of fruits and vegetables. One field with a farmer working had tomato vines growing up hisbiscus tree trunks. Cloud forests loom overhead on the volcanic mountain tops and down below are the swampy verdant valley floors with taro growing up a storm.
Soon we circle back on the main beach road without identifying the ever elusive paw paw patch. We turned down a two lane tutted trail to the Matutu Beer Brewery, a shed with an old guy washing beer bottles with a brush by hand and another guy with rubber boots and a jacket like he has been in a cooler.
The beer, there are two kinds, comes in tiny juice glass so we sit on the porch and chat with the guy in the boots. After discussing the state of education on Rarotonga, Bill ask him about a fruit he could see hanging in a tree and was told it was mangoes. He said the paw paws were Papayas—on tall skinny trees with a few split leaves. Ahhh what one finds out at the beer brewery.
Google: The name pawpaw is applied to the unrelated tropical fruit papaya (Carica papaya).
Now I just need a basket so I can pick up paw paws and put them in it. Then perhaps I shall make
Green pawpaw curry with 2 medium-sized green pawpaws 2 tablespoons butter, 1 large onion, 2 cloves crushed garlic ,1 small piece grated ginger 2 green chillies , 1 tablespoon curry powder , 1 cup coconut cream , 1 cup water, ½ cup lemon juice and Pepper by melting the butter,.2. Fry the onion, garlic and ginger for 3 minutes. 3. Add the chillies and curry powder and cook for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is a rich golden brown colour.4. Slowly stirring in the coconut cream and water.5. then washing and peeling the pawpaw, and adding the pawpaw cubes to the curry sauce. Cook for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add lemon juice and pepper to taste. 6. Served hot with cooked taro sweet potato or breadfruit.
Or perhaps a Pawpaw and pineapple salad With 2 cups diced ripe pawpaw, 2 cups diced pineapple, 6 tablespoons lemon juice mixed together and allowed to sit for half an hour in a cool place, then serve with cooked fish or meat and some taro, breadfruit or sweet potato.
Of course I still haven’t found the paw paw patch.
Saturday morning in Avarua, the town on the Rarotonga, is the Punanganui Nui market. I find Ruda who sells picked Paw’s Paws from her red truck. She picks up some for me.
Ever in search of the unpicked (yet) Paw Paw patch we motor-scootered on a jaunt to the north from our studio on Sunrise Beach mostly on the inside/upper road—very narrow more like a driveway.
For my many followers who like geography, this road is called Ara Metua aka great road of Toi . The south end starts near the Avana Stream in Ngatangiia and going north passes over the Matavera Stream into Matavera territory over the Tupapa Stream into Tupapa territory and into the town of Avarua. It goes further but I will spare you the details — for now.
We met a little white truck leaving the area loaded with pineapples topped of upper leaves—have yet to see a pineapple with leaves on top on the island. We tried, unsuccessfully to find the pineapple patch.
I know we are looking for Paws Paws but we are easily distracted.
We stopped to chat with a working farmer out in his Taro field and figured out the most common crop we are seeing, besides coconuts is cassava, a high carb root, used for tapioca and known as manioc (māniota).
Cassava Cake is a dessert best served cold. It is easy to make.” says lola . We need 2 cups grated, cassava (aka yūca), 2 eggs, 1 can evaporated milk, 1 can sweetened condensed milk and 1 can coconut milk all stirred up and put in a baking dish in 350 oven for 1 hour. Broil 3 or 4 minutes until top is brown then cool in refrigerator until serving time
Google: In Chicago is the CASSAVA CAFÉ: They pay a mouth-watering tribute to the wondrous cassava plant—a part of daily cuisine in much of the tropical world—by using it to make all-natural, gluten-free bread and empanadas.
Around a narrow bend and there is a paw paw patch. Found!!
I found the fruit I was looking for but what is it I ,and perhaps you, are really looking for? Those things such as love, peace, wisdom and passion are intangible. We cannot hold them in our hand or turn their pages. Yet they shape our lives and are the driving mystery of all sacred wisdom: the only things worth saying are those things that are unsayable.
Suddenly standing in the PawPaw patch I realize that I have spent a life gaining fruit after fruit of wisdom, working to understand it and struggling to express and share it, only to become more a part of it, unspeakable, again into a stillness, exposed beyond resistance, and losing my ability to express the findings.
Oh, paw paw.