When the nursery rhyme asks the question "Where, oh where, is pretty little Susie?" the answer might very well be, "Way down yonder in Unionville's paw paw patch."
That oddly-shaped, aromatic fruit often associated with barefoot kids meandering through the bushes in the South actually grows quite well in the local climate of Southeastern Pennsylvania. And for one local man, his harvest is literally being eaten up by ice cream lovers in Kennett Square.
David Baker of Unionville has been growing paw paw trees for 20 years now. He started them from seedlings and now has 18 of them -- 15 of them fruiting this year.
He said he grows the trees as a hobby because he's fascinated with them. The rest of the time he manages apartment houses owned by his family in Kennett Square.
Recently, he presented the idea of making paw paw ice cream out of his fruits, and the management of La Michoacana in the borough agreed.
Martha Rodriguiz, who works at La Michoacana said it sells well. "They come in for it - corn and paw paw ... Mexicans and Americans," she said.
Right off the tree the plant looks like a large, green kidney with skin the color of a pear and the texture of a ripe banana. Inside, the fruit pulp has an unusual taste and surrounds about 12 black, lima-bean-shaped seeds.
Blended carefully with cream and frozen, the paw paws make a tasty, perfumy dessert, but they are also good for other dishes like pies and muffins. Some people eat them right off the tree like apples, while others make beer out of them. "Some people add vanilla and sugar. ... I like them raw; they're sticky," Baker said.
He added that Lewis and Clark found paw paws on their expedition westward in the early 1800s. The plants grow well in Missouri and West Virginia he said, but, according to the paw paw Web site, they can grow across the eastern United States to Kansas and Texas and from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico.
Baker said there are many paw paw trees along the Susquehanna River growing in the shade, but it takes full sunlight to develop the fruit.
The paw paw plants flower in the spring and develop fruit in late summer and early fall between Labor Day and Oct. 21.
Although paw paws are not widely available for purchase, they are for sale at some local farmers' markets and from the University of Delaware farm.
For Rodriguez, paw paws are just another one of the exotic flavors offered in the popular Kennett eatery. "The fruit is very, very good," she said.