Pawpaws - "Tropical" Fruit Native to Midwest U.S.
Cluster of Pawpaw fruit hanging from tree
Pawpaw - a unique fruit
Regular hikers of the Potomac River in Washington D.C. have long eaten a fruit grown along its riverbanks that most other Americans have never even heard of -- the pawpaw!
Sure, some people may recall a nursery rhyme with "paw paw patch" in its verse. And others may have heard of towns, lakes, rivers and creeks named Paw Paw, or the passing mention of a pawpaw festival. Yet, most probably do not even know what a pawpaw actually is.
Pawpaws - Packed with Nutrients
- vitamin C
Good Source of:
- essential amino acids
Contain significant amounts of:
Pawpaw trees are native to the U.S.
A pawpaw (Asimina Triloba) is actually a fruit, and it is one with a rich history in the United States. Natively, the pawpaw or papaw is grown in the temperate woodlands along the eastern region of the country. American Indians are credited with spreading the fruit farther into the land, with pawpaw trees grown as far west as eastern Kansas and Texas, as far north as the Great Lakes region, and as far south as the gulf coast.
The pawpaw (papaw) fruit:
- is the largest edible fruit grown in the United States
- weighs about 5-16 oz. and is 3-6 inches in length
- has two rows with 10-14 seeds each inside
- grows in clusters (like bananas) with up to 8 individual fruit
"Wow" seems to be a very common expression for people who have been lucky enough to take a bite of this seemingly-rare fruit.
The taste of a pawpaw (papaw) has been described as:
- sweet as a strawberry
- a cross between a banana and a papaya
- a cross between a banana and an apple
- like a creamy custard with a tropical flavor
Pawpaw - A Fuit with Many Names
This fruit has many names and multiple spellings, including:
- pawpaw (pronounced paw-paw)
- papaw (pronounced puh-paw)
- poor man's banana
- hoosier banana
- michigan banana
- prairie banana
- custard apple
Difficulty in commercializing Pawpaws
While pawpaws are indigenous to the U.S., and there are even fossils to prove it, most people have never tasted this fruit, let alone heard of it. But, why? It seems that papaw trees are not necessarily the easiest trees to grow, requiring 400 hours of cool winter temperatures, about 160 frost-free days, in addition to a humid climate.
But beyond that, the pawpaw fruit that is produced is rather fragile and, therefore, has not been commercialized like so many other fruits that are readily available at grocery stores.
Farmers have found it difficult to commercialize pawpaws since:
- pawpaws have thin skins and are fragile to ship
- pawpaws need to ripen on the tree
- pawpaws are best when used within 2-3 days of being harvested
Watch the video: "The Pawpaw: Foraging for America's Fruit"
Where to buy Pawpaws
Neal Peterson has been breeding pawpaws for 35 years, and although this fruit is not commercially available, it can sometimes be purchased locally at farmers markets and at festivals towards the end of September and possibly as late as November. An online Michigan retailer of wild foods will ship pawpaws when they're in season.
While some people choose to plant their own trees, it will taken time for them to mature to produce fruit. A Kentucky State University pawpaw program is available in order to help people grow papaw trees successfully in their own back yards!
Pawpaw & Lime Sorbet
This wonder fruit can be used in a wide variety of recipes to make items like:
- ice cream, sorbet and sherbet
- jam and preserves
- bread, muffins, cookies and cakes
- pie, custard and puddings
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