7+ things to know about Pawpaws, the largest and only tropical fruit from the continental U.S.
Learn how to forage, harvest and enjoy eating these very special seasonal fruits.
1. What Is A Pawpaw?
The American Pawpaw is apart of the custard apple family.
It’s a delicious seeded fruit native to the eastern United States and Canada.
Pawpaw is a yellow-green or brown fruit that grows in temperate climates such as the eastern United states up to Canada. It is in the family Annonaceae which includes tropical and sub-tropical fruit such as Soursop, Custard Apples, Sweetsop and Cherimoya.
Pawpaw is the edible fruit from the tree of the same name. Scientific name Asimina Triloba. They go by several names such as “American Pawpaw, Prairie Banana, Hipster Banana, Banango and American Custard Apple.” There are also several Indigenous names for the fruit such as Orko by the Muscogee and Chickasaw or Umbi by the Choctaw.
It was a staple for Native people’s who dried the fruit for cakes. Other tribes used the tree bark to make rope.
Pawpaw fruit are the largest edible fruit indigenous to the United States and they're high in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Magnesium and Manganese.
2. Can You Eat The Fruit Of A Pawpaw Tree?
Yes, you can. They can be eaten raw or they can be cooked in pies or pastries. Fresh fruit doesn’t usually bother people with sensitivity; cooked pawpaw seems to be more likely to cause a reaction if you do have sensitivity. But don’t eat the skin or seeds, which contain toxins called Annonacin. The easiest way to eat the fruit is to wash it off, and cut the fruit in half. It’s very soft when ripe and can be easily eaten with a spoon.
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3. Where Can I Find Pawpaws?
They are found across the Eastern United States and South Eastern regions of Canada. The trees grow along creek banks and in shaded areas where the roots can be consistently moist.
We’re in Atlanta and have found several fruiting trees across the city.
Unfortunately, you are unlikely to find any at your local big box grocery store until farmers are able to breed a firmer fruit not so susceptible to bruising so easily and a fruit with a longer shelf life.
However, online checkout Integration Acres they sell a variety of pawpaw products and the fruit.
If you’re in the area there is also an annual PawPaw festival in Albany, Ohio in September. Featuring everything from beer to salsa made from the fruit.
4. When Are Pawpaws Available?
They have a short season of availability, between the months of late August and early October. Since the fruit are so soft; once they are ripe and picked, they will only last for a few days. Even placing them in a basket together to take home can bruise them. This also means you won't find them in grocery stores and limits the amount of time that they are available to find and harvest.
If you don't have Pawpaws near you, there are many Pawpaw festivals that you can go and here's a comprehensive list to many of them provided by the North American Pawpaw Growers Association.
5. How To Pick Them
Pawpaw fruit are very easy to pick once they are ripe. They grow in clusters of 2 or more starting off green in color before they ripen. Once they begin to ripen, they will have yellowish-green skin with dark spots and patches.
They are very delicate and can easily bruise, you can squeeze them to test how close they are to ripeness. Ripe fruit will feel soft and have some yield like a ripe peach. If they are ripe you can easily twist them off the branch or pick them off of the ground.
6. Taste, Texture And Smell
Taste - Pawpaw fruit has a sweet flavor that tastes like part Banana, part Mango, Pineapple, or Cantaloupe.
Texture - It has a custard texture with a very delicate and soft flesh that's not quite pulpy but not as smooth as the texture of a banana.
Smell - They have a wonderfully light and somewhat flowery smell just as they're ripening. Their smell is somewhere between an apple, a pear with a little hint of pineapple-like citrus.
When spoon eating Pawpaws, be careful not to scrape too close to the inner skin of the pawpaw, because this is like the rind of a melon and it has a bitter aftertaste compared to the rest of the fruit.
7. What Are The Benefits?
Pawpaws contain a range of nutrients, including antioxidants, potassium, protein and fiber. It also contains epigallocatechin which can reduce inflammation.
Once you harvest the pawpaw fruit you can scoop out the flesh and immediately freeze it to use in smoothies or even for baking.
You can use it as a puree as a substitute for mango or papaya. Many Pawpaw enthusiasts mix them into ice cream, cake frosting and breads.
Between late August and early October. Many becoming ripe in early September.
You can get seeds from both Nurseries and from private sellers on online stores like Etsy.
No. The two are not botanically related and are very different fruit, but in some regions of the world Papaya are called Pawpaws.
They grow in 26 states, but most abundantly in the eastern United States ranging from Ohio, where it's the state fruit to parts of Northern Georgia, Alabama and Louisiana.
Yes. Ripe Pawpaw fruit are very good and nutritious, containing Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and even Iron.
Eating. Eating it dehydrated, blended in a smoothie, in ice cream and even baked goods.
The Pawpaw tree grows about one to two feet per year and has a lifespan of around 40 years.
Order the book: For the Love of Pawpaws: A Mini Manual for Growing and Caring for Pawpaws--From Seed to Table Paperback – Illustrated
by Michael Judd
Comment down below if you've had a chance to try pawpaws or if there is any other facts we could include and tag us on Instagram at #thevgnway
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