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A few weeks ago, the girls and I loaded up our bikes to go on a bike ride, leaving Jack, Henry, Zoey, and Peter to explore the nearby trails at the Morgan/Monroe State Forest. They didn’t go far–after stopping at the visitor’s center to get a little information, they went on a short tree identification path. When Jack spotted a pawpaw tree with unripe fruit on it, he couldn’t wait to go back to pick it when it was closer to being ripe.

The pawpaw is also known as the Indiana banana. It is the northernmost growing tropical fruit and when fully ripe, tastes like the cross between a banana and mango. It can be turned in to ice cream, quick bread, or pudding, but most people eat them raw. I am not nearly as much of a fruit lover as Jack (I’m happy with a boring old apple) but they do have a very interesting flavor and the texture is like a ripe banana. Since we love a good foraging adventure, we all agreed to go with Jack to see if we’d have any luck.
The tree identification trail was off the bike path. Pretty quickly, Jack found the two little fruits that he’d spotted before. If they get too ripe, squirrels are known to eat them, so we went ahead and picked them to take home for ourselves. Once the kids were able to identify the pawpaw trees by their spindly trunks and broad leaves, they descended on the forest to try their luck.
Foraging is always kind of tricky. There’s no guarantee you’re going to find what you’re looking for and to a kid, they feel slighted if they don’t get to pick one of whatever we’re searching for. Luckily for us, we found several large pawpaw patches and within ten minutes, every kid had picked multiple fruits.
We we regrouped, it became a game of comparison. Who picked the most? Who had the biggest pawpaw? Who picked them the fastest. Seriously, everything is a competition in our family. 🤣
What’s so fun about going into the forest is that even though we had a particular objective in mind, there are always so many other interesting finds that make the hike feel like an adventure. Turkey tail mushrooms covering a fallen tree limb? Fascinating?
Stumbling into a dried creek bed and finding an enormous geode? We might as well have struck gold!
Finding a funky little leaf in the shape of a heart to give to your mom so she knows you love her? Aww…🥰
On the way back out of the forest, we found a patch of much larger pawpaws that had much larger fruit. The only problem? It was high enough up that we couldn’t reach it from the ground. Thankfully, rather than having to leave the fruit to taunt us from the treetops, all it took was a little shake and they fell to the ground. It might as well have been candy from a pinata as far as the kids were concerned.
When it was time to pack up and go home and stepped back on to the bike path, we let Peter get out to stretch his legs. He is getting to be a big boy and we won’t be able to carry him in the hiking backpack forever. Might as well get some miles in while the path is level.
Probably the best laugh of the night was passing the Indiana Bigfoot Association Annual Camp-Out. We didn’t see a lot of people there, but perhaps they were already out searching for him. Or her. Them?
Our haul was good and they’re starting to ripen nicely, though Jack has had to do some coaxing to get everyone to at least try them.
Maybe we’ll have to try the pawpaw ice cream to win over the critics.

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True stories of raising children, remodeling, braving the elements and plotting out life, all while living on a humble acreage in central Indiana.

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