|In the Caribbean, the locals called papayas “paw paws”—like this crazy big one|
Wayne ate in St. Lucia, where we first started cruising the tropics together.
In the US, when I heard there was a fruit called a paw paw in West Virginia, and a town there called Paw Paw, I figured they were not the same as the Caribbean version. Indeed, they are not.
Pawpaws are oblong green fruits, according to a Healthline article extolling the nutritional benefits of the U.S. pawpaw. They are prized for their flavor, which is described as a tropical blend of mango, banana, berries, and pineapple. However, it’s important to note that there are several types of wild pawpaw, some of which don’t have a pleasant taste.
I hunted fruitlessly for one a grocery store in Paw Paw. Alas, the few businesses there, mostly gas stations, which didn’t look like likely prospects to sell a rare fruit. I gave up.
|C&O Canal Paw Paw Tunnel entrance. The trail is popular with cyclists, too.|
We stopped to check out the Paw Paw tunnel at the now-defunct, but once vital Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) canal. The tunnel earned its name from the many wild paw paw trees growing along that stretch of river. Designed to bypass a tough stretch of the Potomac River, the tunnel runs about two-thirds of a mile (3,115 feet) and was considered an engineering marvel. It took over six million bricks to build the tunnel, which was completed in 1850.
There are no lights in the tunnel. Nonetheless, I stumbled my way through it without a flashlight, sure I would be rewarded by a vista on the other side.
|C&O Canal Paw Paw Tunnel entrance.|
Wayne, near the tunnel entrance, when it was still possible to see without a flashlight.
Wayne, wisely, gave up after a while. While he waited for me, he encountered a park ranger chatting with some other visitors. Wayne joined the conversation.
|C&O Canal Paw Paw Tunnel entrance from inside, looking back.|
Lo and behold, the ranger held a paw paw, which he sliced up for Wayne and the other folks to try. By the time I returned from my trip through the tunnel, the ranger and his paw paw were gone.
|US Paw Paw Image pilfered from https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/09/15/550985844/this-once-obscure-fruit-is-on-its-way-to-becoming-pawpaw-pawpular|
I asked Wayne what the paw paw tasted like. “Meh,” he said—okay he didn’t but that’s what he said summed up to. The paw paw Wayne tried must not have been one of the tasty cultivars.
|Backside of the C&O Paw Paw Tunnel. I snuck past the construction tape to take this photo.|
As for the tunnel, there was no vista on the other side. In fact, what was there was closed off for construction. I slipped past it for a bit, but it didn’t appear to go anywhere interesting, so I gave up and turned around.
Someday I may try one of the US paw paws—if I can find a cultivated one.
This post is written about our east coast fall foliage tour when we were weaving between Maryland and West Virginia, which took place in October. We are currently on another road trip, whose purpose, path, and destination I prefer to keep shrouded in mystery for now.