By Kelly Durso
This weekend the Ohio PawPaw Grower's Association welcomes local farmers and residents to experience the pawpaw, a common native tree fruit in North America. The fifth annual festival takes place at Lake Snowden near Albany, Ohio, and serves everything from traditional pawpaws to pawpaw beer and pawpaw food.
|The pawpaw fruit, which grows in various regions of eastern North America, tastes similar to a mango or banana. The fruit is three to six inches in length.|
The festival will include a tent, a best pawpaw competition, a pawpaw cook off, and other events. The tent is the main stage for the festival where people can learn about the pawpaw from experts. Some of the organizations that are lending their expertise include Rural Action, the PawPaw Foundation and Ohio University's School of Human and Consumer Sciences.
Melani Duffrin, an assistant professor of human and consumer sciences in the College of Health and Human Services, will be at the tent on Saturday to discuss her research on pawpaw. She will be presenting "How to Savor the PawPaw Flavor" and "Cooking with the PawPaw."
Some of Duffrin's research has looked at the use of pawpaws to help make low-fat baked goods more palatable to the health-conscious consumer.
Regarding her study, she said, "Appalachian Ohio has economic problems, but if the region develops new products it could create new jobs and farms. Really, one of the benefits of [my research] was to create a spring board for the pawpaw."
With pawpaw fans like Duffrin, the festival is growing in popularity. This year's pawpaw competition will feature some of the varieties of flavor and characteristics of the fruit in select and "wild" pawpaw varieties. Amateur and professional chefs will compete in the pawpaw cook off where visiting food writers from across the country will sample and judge the fruit.
This year, pawpaw connoisseurs will be joined by shrimp lovers as part of the Jambalaya Jam. Hosted by the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks, the Jambalaya Jam puts the spotlight on the local aquaculture industry by celebrating Southeast Ohio's freshwater shrimp harvest.
On Friday restaurants that are part of the Athens Independent Restaurant Association will have special shrimp dinners. Customers can use a coupon at the restaurant to donate a portion of their boil to the Jambalaya Jam's Hocking College Culinary Scholarship. The coupon is available at www.jambalayajam.com.
Saturday the festival moves to Lake Snowden where people can enjoy harvest demonstrations and Hocking College culinary students will participate in a cook-off.
Festival hours will be from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. The festival costs $3 per person or $10 per person for the weekend with campsite included. Children under 12 get in for free. For additional information on the Pawpaw Festival and Jambalaya Jam check out their Web sites at www.ohiopawpaw.org/pawpawfest.html and www.jambalayajam.com.
Kelly Durso is a student writer with University Communications and Marketing.