NOTE: Andrew did this story in October last year. Pawpaw season is mid-August to early October.
RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - You don't have to head to the grocery store for a taste of the tropics. It turns out a largely unknown fruit thrives in Richmond -- and you can get it for free...if you can find it.
"It's like a treasure hunt, I guess you could say," said Mike Gorski. His treasure is one that most of us miss. But if you know where to look, you too, can find this hidden tropical gem
"I like to use a bucket because the fruit doesn't get crushed," Mike said.
Every year, from mid-August to early October, this wild food enthusiast heads to the James River Park -- sometimes with his kids -- in search for the elusive pawpaw. A free meal.
"Most people don't know what a pawpaw is. They've heard of it. But they'd never know what it looked like," he said. "Not the prettiest fruit, but they really are tasty they have creamy vanilla custard flavor early, then as they ripen, they get more of a tropical banana flavor."
Yet they are one of the only two fruit trees native to Virginia (American persimmon is another). They are picky as to where they will grow. Pawpaws only grow in fertile soil near rivers -- on distinctive medium size trees.
But you can't pick them with a ladder -- the trees tend to be too thin. So you just shake!
The pawpaws only fall off when they are ripe.
"You wait until it'll give with a little pressure or an avocado," Mike said.
And if it's ripe, you can give it a taste. But don't eat the seeds -- they are poisonous.
I'd want to be like Mike. I pulled one off, broke it open and gave it a taste ... it's pretty good. Tastes like the tropics right here in Richmond.
You too can go hunt those pawpaws. You'll have to wait until next year, they are pretty much gone now.