The pawpaw's stamp of approval
A fan of the native fruit makes a postal proposal -- a stamp with the pawpaw on it.
When last we saw John Vukmirovich – the English prof, naturalist, and “professional sandhill crane spotter" – he was a modern-day Johnny Pawpaw Seed, surreptitiously distributing seed of America’s forgotten fruit throughout the Chicago area, even on a Nike missile range.Skip to next paragraph
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No longer. He heard that maybe some folks with big offices might frown on his actions.
But he hasn't stopped trying to further gain recognition for pawpaws. This week he is proposing to the US Postal Service that they create a stamp with his favorite fruit on it.
The appeal of an unusual tree
“The guidelines for a proposal are very strict,” he says. “And they say they look at 10,000 proposals a year. So I wanted my proposal to be evocative, something to appeal to the heart, the mind, even the nose.”
He has certainly done that, and here I quote his proposal in full:
"They say that rivers flow down to the sea from the land, but rivers of the imagination flow into the land, and are a part of it, flowing from the Appalachians and the Alleghenies west to the Mississippi, moving in and among the mountains, turning into streams and creeks that glide past and alongside countless ridges and into innumerable hollows, until the waters and the land are inseparable. Alongside those rivers, creeks, and streams, deep in the hollows and on the sides of the ridges, in the shadow of the mountains, grows a tree that like the rivers is a part of the land itself, inseparable: Asimina triloba, the North American pawpaw.
"The flowers of the pawpaw are as visually striking as the fruit is delectable. The purple flowers bloom usually by mid-June. The six-petaled and two-tiered flowers are textured as if cut from crepe paper. The back tier's large petals point to 10, 2, and 6 on the clock face of nature, while front tier's are at noon, 4, and 8. But the effect, accentuated by the yellow, pollen-rich center, is timeless. The purple is deep and rich, as if an artist first laid down a chocolate-colored underpainting, an imprimatura, before applying the purple, the color of the underlayer adding a sweetness, if you will, to the flower's color, if not to the fruit itself.
"Once pollinated, the clusters of light green fruit swell until they are roughly mango-sized and -shaped, their skins irregularly daubed with a patina of brackish purple. Inside, the meat is a creamy yellow that darkens as the fruit matures, and at its peak, has a custard-like consistency, while the fruit as a whole gives off a heady floral aroma. The flavor teases the senses, banana-vanilla up-front, but at times behind that, pineapple or coconut accents, befitting its long droopy tropical leaves. The seeds are large, bean-shaped and a dark chocolate brown.